It’s such a lonely journey being the mom of a teen who struggles with depression. I’m in a pandemic texting group of 3 other moms, but the talk is mostly about dual enrollment, AP classes, field hockey recruitment, and soccer. My son has a spectacular IQ and recruitable athletic talents, but with mental illness now in the mix we live in the moment; the future is murky.
Our pandemic group text conversations go like this:
Mom 1: “Dual enrollment was harder than Anna thought! She had tons of work!“
Mom 2: “We alums are petitioning our university to reinstate D1 field hockey.“
Mom 3: “We have to cancel our Dec trip to Sweden because the school calendar has shifted.”
Me: “I hid our knives. Mostly as a precaution. Haha bad timing for grandma to have given him that survival kit at Christmas!“
I don’t reveal what’s really happening in my life
I didn’t really text that, but I wanted to. It’s my world, this life under a dark cloud for the past few months, everything made worse by the pandemic. It’s getting better, after we took a chance and treated the undiagnosed ADHD (inattentive) and the depression is abating, fingers crossed, but there will be catch up to do. My son is on a different path now.
I’d like to talk to my friends about this journey, the one where we feel lost and we hop from expert to expert, the one where we walk on eggshells, where a phone is not just a phone, but potentially a portal to darkness. College? Well, that’s now a distant thought.
I can’t think of anything to connect me to these moms, so I text about food. The red velvet cupcake. The umami ramen. The blueberries at Costco!
A few of my fellow moms are comrades in arms
A few moms walk beside me, fighting the same fight. We get each other. A kind mom from preschool has wonderful kids who are about to launch and she knows just what to say to me, giving me hope and offering relevant, sage advice. But the other moms?
They don’t want to hear it. “Man up,” they hint. “Let him fail,” they warn. “This will build resilience, all kids have struggles,” they explain. When I confess to not knowing the dates of the school standardized tests, they roll their eyes. It’s not on the school website. It’s not in the principal’s weekly newsletter. “My kid just tells me,” says one mom. Yes, I think. YOUR kid tells you. I am frazzled. You are not.
My struggles are always minimized
It’s always minimized, the struggles of the struggling. What I want is validation, that this is not anyone’s fault. Yes, I packed his backpack for middle school but that didn’t cause his executive function deficiencies.
When a beloved coach (aka mentor and role model) left, I knew it would hit my son hard and it did. My friend simply shrugged and said, “Nat has been through many coaches. It happens and it’s good for them!” Well, yeah, if you’re a neurotypical kid.
They see these struggles as weak. I see my coping with it as strength. Strength in the face of daunting challenges and unknowns. This baby, now almost a man, needs me still. We want ours to fly just as you want yours to fly, but our timelines are different; it will come, life will eventually dole out struggles and triumphs for everyone.
I have another kid, so I know what it’s like to feel like a good mom. I say, please take out the trash and he does it, sometimes without asking. He lined up a summer job, all by himself. He does all the things. I don’t manage this one, don’t worry nearly as much. He lives in light and laughter. Shesh, feeling like a good mom with this one hardly feels earned.
We are all doing our best
We are not good moms because we have good kids and we are not bad moms when our kids are struggling. We are all moms, doing our best. How our kids turn out has a little to do with us and a lot to do with the dynamic nature of life. It can happen in a flash, this reversal of fortune. To be holding up a kid in darkness is the most humbling and raw of experiences.
To the moms on the other side, the side I stand on with my easy going kid, look at your friends with the struggling kids and really see them. Validate a text that comes through that says things are not ok. I did that before I knew I would be the mom going to med checks. I took those sad moms to coffee and I listened. I felt their pain, the pain that feels so real to me today. How it shifts and shifts again, feels like I’m moving into the light, but we know how that goes.
Just…validate. It’s a powerful expression of human kindness, one mom to another.
The author of this post wishes to remain anonymous.