We have done it probably close to 100 times in his 7 years of life, but we had never got that phone call. Let me back up a bit…a little while ago, we received the offer from someone to take the kids for a sleepover…an offer that’s hard to refuse for any parent! So we packed up the kids clothes and security blankets and sent the kids away for the evening.
That night, as my wife and I sat in our quiet home watching TV, we got a phone call. Hey…he won’t stop crying and we’ve tried everything…you’re going to have to pick him up.
For the past few months, my wife and I’s anxieties have been peaked…and it seems that our heads were a bit in the sand dealing with our own anxieties that we missed the signs of our kids’ anxieties.
We thought we were dealing with “normal” kid behaviour. You know the kind – increase in fighting with siblings, talking back, bedwetting, not listening, getting up in the middle of the night, moody… all this sounding familiar? AND it’s summertime…so those things just naturally increase right?
And in many ways, we were dealing with “normal” kid behaviour, but once our heads got dislodged from the sand dune we realized it wasn’t just “normal” kid behaviour. There were anxieties. Lots of them.
So that night when my son came home from his sleepover, we sat and chatted. I asked him what was going on, I listened without interrupting and heard the anxiety loud and clear. He expressed the feelings he was having, the thoughts, the concerns. We opened the lines of communication for a child that didn’t know how to sort through all the sh*t that he had going on inside. We talked about a plan to deal with those anxieties, about who he could talk to anytime about whatever was going on for him and other strategies for dealing with the anxiety.
Has it helped? A bit. He’s sleeping through the night again and he’s back to more “normal” kid behaviour (i.e. being a pain in the butt…). We check-in with him a bit more now too. It’s not that he doesn’t want to talk to us or that he doesn’t have the opportunity, but let’s be realistic…we as adults have enough trouble trying to sort through the sh*t-storm…can you imagine what it’s like for a 7-year old?
It’s one of those things you want to guard your children from forever. You never want them to experience those things, those thoughts, those feelings. It hurts to watch your kid hurt, it physically pains you when they are sick or hurt. You feel like you should be able to guard them from these things. From pain, grief, death, a broken heart, and yet, as much as we try…we can not. We can’t stop the pain from entering. We can’t stop death from occurring. We can’t stop them from having their heart broken into a million pieces.
But we can talk with them. We can support them. We can love them through thick and thin and be right there beside them, ready to give them a hug and tell them how proud we are…and to be there to give them a hug when the world won’t stop spinning for a second and you just want to puke. We can be there to pick them up, listen to their story and help them deal with their thoughts and worries. We can instill self-confidence, a growth mindset, and an overwhelming love. When all else fails…we can be there for them.
About Jason Dykstra
Jason Dykstra is a husband, father of four (three living), and a conflict management specialist. After the loss of his son in 2016, Jason started a blog called, They Call Me Dad, where he explores #dadlife, grief, the role of men in today's world, and shares his many mistakes as a parent. For work Jason serves organizations and churches as they turn conflict situations into creative solutions. As an international speaker and trainer, he journeys alongside his clients as they unleash their potential in the areas of conflict management and leadership.