I was sitting in my office relaxing, enjoying a quiet evening when I took a peek at my Facebook feed. A good friend of mine had just posted a 30 second video of her grandson playing Little League baseball. He was up to bat, and when the pitch came he swung and hit the ball into the outfield. His grandma (who was recording the event) cheered loudly for him as he rounded first base and landed safely at second.
It was her cheering that suddenly stirred something in me. It was a very long time ago, but I was once that young boy swinging a bat in Little League, and when I hit the ball my parents would yell and cheer just as my friend did for her grandson. Seeing him stand there on second base I was suddenly struck with how we live in a “what you see is what you expect world” – and that’s the way we tend to like it.
I was once that little boy – standing on second base with family cheering. What my family didn’t know is that inside I wasn’t a happy child – that there was something different about me and I couldn’t talk to anyone about it. I didn’t feel safe in telling my secret to anyone. It took a couple of decades, a divorce and a definite plan to commit suicide before I was finally able to talk to others about it.
I’m sure if back in the day had someone asked my parents “can your kids talk to you about anything?” I’m sure their answer would have been a sincere and genuine “yes, of course.” Being one of those kids, I can tell you absolutely the truth was “no, I couldn’t.”
So parents…can your child talk to you about anything? And I mean ANYTHING? Do they feel safe talking to you when they mess up? Do they feel confident that even though you may not be happy with what they’ve done, they know you’ll help them get past it and do better in the future? Can they come to you and tell you that they are gay without yelling or worse? Or can they come to you and tell you that they want to live as the opposite sex?
If you answered yes to the above, you’re halfway there. You may be prepared, as an adult who loves their child to hear whatever they may have to tell you. But there is the other half – does your child KNOW they can come to you with anything, anytime, regardless of what it is about? If you’ve told them, then how many times have you told them? Has it sunk in? Do they BELIEVE you? You can say they can tell you anything, but what does their life experience up to this point tell them? Do they get yelled at when they don’t eat all their vegetables or bring home a bad grade from school? If a D on a report card makes your face turn red from the screaming, how do they expect you to act when it is something much bigger? Is their fear of your reaction keeping them from opening up to you?
So my PLEA to you who are parents, make sure your kids KNOW they can talk to you – about anything. Some topics may be very, very difficult for you to handle – welcome to parenthood, this is when your love for your child has to come before your own personal discomfort. If it’s something more than you can tackle alone, get some help. Call a friend, call a professional, but do what you have to do to be there for your child.
There may be more inside that kid standing on second base (or on the dance floor, or in the spelling bee, etc.) than you’re aware of. If they’re afraid to talk to you, that’s on you to fix. For the sake of your child – please fix it.