My family went through a pretty dark period back in the early 80’s.
I come from a big family with many siblings and when it was just my brother who’s a couple years older than I am, and me left at home, he started to get into some serious trouble.
Near the end of middle school, my brother’s grades began to slip. He had a learning challenge that at the time was unknown and undiagnosed, as most of them were back in the day. Understandably he began to get frustrated at school, which led to anxiety and anger, both there and at home.
Once he started high school, where the academic rigor increased, he began to skip classes, and then entire days of school. A few months into his freshman year, my parents were called in to the school and told that he was being kicked out.
This was shocking news for my parents, who had never experienced anything like this with their four older children. Over the next few turbulent years, my brother was kicked out of a second high school, got deeper into illegal drug use, was arrested several times, ran away from home, and was told never to return.
I watched my parents try to deal with all of those events in the best way that they could, which at the time, was pretty much behind closed doors. My mom tried to always put on a happy face for me, and it wasn’t until many years later that I fully understood just how difficult those years had been for her.
Back in those days, parents just didn’t talk as freely about the challenges they faced with their children – of any age. I know my parents felt deep shame about my brother’s behavior and they didn’t really know where to turn for help. The prevailing attitude then seemed to be that to discuss problems and sensitive issues out loud would only give them more power and make them worse. If you talked to your kids openly about drugs and sex, that would just make them more interested, right?
Grown and Flown Community
I think now about how helpful an online community like Grown and Flown would have been for my mom, and for all of the parents of that generation. No one was telling them how hard it was to deal with teenagers. Most of them didn’t want to discuss honestly with friends and neighbors the challenges they were having, because they felt shame and guilt. They thought that perhaps they were the only ones dealing with things like a kid getting arrested or coming home drunk and getting into a physical altercation with a parent.
If my mom had been able to turn to a huge group of parents from around the country who were all contributing their own parenting stories of despair, empathy, heartache, and triumph, her path might have been so much easier.
If she had only known then how common our family’s struggles were, she would have felt so much more normal and comforted. Of course, teenagers and young adults back in the ‘70s and ‘80s were dealing with addiction, mental health issues and hopelessness. But most of their parents didn’t have the resources to get helpful advice and the compassion they needed.
As adults today, we look back on those simpler times with a lot of happy nostalgia, but far too many of us didn’t truly know what our parents were struggling with, because they didn’t talk to us or their friends openly about their problems, and there was still such a stigma attached to getting therapy.
Social media can be a mixed bag but I, for one, am very grateful for the Grown and Flown community that provides information, support, empathy and kindness to thousands of parents who are simply trying to be the best parents they can be.
Thankfully today we know that talking about and sharing our struggles makes us stronger and better parents. Thank you, Grown and Flown for providing us a safe space to do just that.
The author of this post wishes to remain anonymous.
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