My Son the Advocate
My teenager is becoming an advocate, and I honestly never saw it coming.
One of my boys was playing with my hair; my husband and youngest son were sprawled out on the floor playing chess; one daughter was practicing cheerleading jumps, while my other daughter was sitting next to me on the couch. We were all there in that very normal moment, when out of nowhere my teen started telling me a story from across the room about how another student at school flippantly called someone “mentally ill” in a way that made fun of them. I could hear his frustration as he told me how he responded, even asking the student why he said that. The student shrugged it off by saying he always says that. My son may have planted a seed in his friend that could grow into compassion for others and more careful speech.
My son’s response took courage and was said with compassion. I was shocked.
I felt a mixture of emotion...
•Proud of my son who spoke up.
•Insecure that he felt the burden of defending his mom.
•Thankful for how he hadn’t let shame silence him.
•Amazed at his comfort level to talk openly about mental illness in front of our whole family in a normal everyday setting.
𝐈 𝐝𝐢𝐝𝐧’𝐭 𝐰𝐚𝐧𝐭 𝐭𝐨 𝐦𝐚𝐤𝐞 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐦𝐨𝐬𝐭 𝐨𝐟 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐬𝐢𝐭𝐮𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧 𝐛𝐲 𝐮𝐬𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐢𝐭 𝐚𝐬 𝐚 𝐰𝐚𝐲 𝐭𝐨 𝐲𝐞𝐭 𝐚𝐠𝐚𝐢𝐧 𝐧𝐨𝐫𝐦𝐚𝐥𝐢𝐳𝐞 𝐭𝐚𝐥𝐤𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐚𝐛𝐨𝐮𝐭 𝐦𝐞𝐧𝐭𝐚𝐥 𝐡𝐞𝐚𝐥𝐭𝐡 𝐰𝐢𝐭𝐡 𝐦𝐲 𝐤𝐢𝐝𝐬, 𝐛𝐮𝐭 𝐈 𝐤𝐧𝐞𝐰 𝐢𝐟 𝐈 𝐬𝐭𝐚𝐲𝐞𝐝 𝐬𝐢𝐥𝐞𝐧𝐭 𝐢𝐭 𝐰𝐨𝐮𝐥𝐝 𝐢𝐧𝐝𝐢𝐜𝐚𝐭𝐞 𝐭𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐦𝐞𝐧𝐭𝐚𝐥 𝐢𝐥𝐥𝐧𝐞𝐬𝐬 𝐢𝐬 𝐮𝐧𝐜𝐨𝐦𝐟𝐨𝐫𝐭𝐚𝐛𝐥𝐞 𝐭𝐨 𝐭𝐚𝐥𝐤 𝐚𝐛𝐨𝐮𝐭. 𝐅𝐨𝐫 𝐦𝐲 𝐠𝐞𝐧𝐞𝐫𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧 𝐢𝐭 𝐢𝐬. 𝐁𝐮𝐭 𝐈 𝐡𝐚𝐯𝐞 𝐡𝐨𝐩𝐞 𝐭𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐢𝐫 𝐠𝐞𝐧𝐞𝐫𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧 𝐰𝐢𝐥𝐥 𝐭𝐚𝐥𝐤 𝐚𝐛𝐨𝐮𝐭 𝐢𝐭 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐬𝐚𝐦𝐞 𝐰𝐚𝐲 𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐲 𝐝𝐢𝐬𝐜𝐮𝐬𝐬 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐜𝐨𝐦𝐦𝐨𝐧 𝐜𝐨𝐥𝐝.
Mamas, we can push our feelings aside and have the hard conversations with our children. Depression and ptsd produce in me the desire to isolate and avoid anything that reminds me of the pain I live with, but of we don’t help our children understand mental illness, the world will.
In an appropriate way, we talked about what depression and ptsd are. I comforted them that Jesus helps me every single day. I gave them hope by explaining how God uses our weakness to show others His power. I gave them a few statistics of just how many people live with depression and how mental illness doesn’t always show on the outside. I added in there that if they ever feel really sad and like there is no hope, that they can come to me because there is always something we can do. Earlier that day, my friend suggested that I even role play with my kids and give them vocabulary and ways to respond to children at school. I took her wise advice and I’m so thankful.
My sensitive 9 year old’s chin quivered as she expressed her sadness over me always feeling sad, but then she quickly switched to telling me how she understands how God is using me. The fact that she thanked me for talking to her about these things astounded me. Inwardly, I still felt awkward, but at the same time, thankful. Only God could have given her eyes to see Him in our family’s situation. She appeared to have joy in her sorrow and hope in her grief.
The hard talks are worth it. It’s easier to suffer internally and not have open discussions with our children. Even I briefly gave into my feelings when I said “you’re fortunate, or unfortunate I guess, to have a mom who struggles and explains these things to you.” The shame I briefly entertained, interjected the word “unfortunate.” Why? Because I’m human and it’s hard.
That’s when my teenage son who is a budding advocate plopped on my lap, and corrected me by saying firmly “fortunate” while he kissed my forehead.
Mamas, our emotions tell us we are a burden, but to our children we are everything. Our emotions tell us we can’t survive the hard conversations about mental illness, but our kids are starving for open dialogue in the home. Our emotions tell us that if we allow them to see our weakness, they won’t understand how God can use that, but they absolutely can see God’s power through our weakness. And even they can be Truth-speakers, reminding us just how fortunate they are to be our children.
The fight for joy and our calling as godly mothers is worth it today. You mean everything, even with mental illness, to your children.