I don’t talk much about parenting anymore. I mean, I threw 16 years of blog posts into “draft mode” on this website because my kids started getting freaked out by the fact that there may exist embarrassing posts from their childhood here for someone to find, so obviously I don’t post about anything now.
BUT. I have a parenting story from the recent weeks that I wanted to share. A story that came back up in conversation last night and I thought, this would be a good one for the blog if I can do it relatively devoid of incriminating details.
So…a few weeks ago one of my kids accidentally sent a text to a group of friends that was meant for me. Honestly? In my opinion it was not that bad at all. I’m prone to severe second-hand embarrassment and this one didn’t really phase me at all.
BUT. I watched them in the moment they realized what they had done. It was the first week of school and they were in the middle of participating in a live class that was – on paper – quite important. I saw the expression on their face as the realization hit and I saw that feeling creep into their body that we all know so well, that moment when you realize you’ve said/done something embarrassing and you just want to click UNDO! UNDO! UNDO!
And so I grabbed their hand and said, in the middle of the class (their mic was off), “Do you want to get out of here?” It startled them a minute, they weren’t sure why I was saying that. I said, “I know how much this sucks and how it’s going to steal your focus for a bit so let’s go for a car ride, go get a soda, and just get out of here.”
So we closed the laptop in the middle of the live class, hopped in the car, and headed for a local drive-thru to get sodas.
And I have no regrets.
We spent the drive talking about mine and other people’s similar embarrassing text fiascos. I told the story of a family member (who reads this blog so I’ll be careful in this story as well) texting someone who had just interviewed them for a job, instead of their spouse. I told the story that John Green tells sometimes about being in the locker room at an NFL game and being reprimanded for eating food off a table he thought was meant for everyone. I told my own story about falling down in front of a gym full of students…right next to my boyfriend who was my first “love” in the only way I understood love back then.
Mainly we just talked it out, kinda giving power to Brené Brown’s idea that shame can NOT survive being spoken. The more we talked it out, the less power it had. BUT NEVER DID I MINIMIZE THE POWER IT HAD. I never tried to tell them it wasn’t a big deal, I just offered my own humiliating stories and stories of others to say: YOU ARE NOT ALONE and also ALL OF THIS IS SURVIVABLE.
I never seem to really understand how differently my mental health affected my childhood, but I have learned that not everyone had the same waves of lows that I did. So, I’m not sure how relatable this statement is, but here it goes: For me? There were embarrassing/traumatic moments in my tween/teen years that increased my suicidal thoughts so much that I often thank god my Dad didn’t not keep loaded guns in the house. My anxiety in those moments was so extreme and I had no idea how to process those feelings (nor did I even know what they were named, the word “anxiety” was not in my vocabulary back then) so there is no part of me now that tries to minimize what my kids are feeling. I just always try to remind them: THESE FEELINGS GO AWAY, I PROMISE.