Somewhere In Between

Somewhere In Between

We’re already a week and a half into our summer break. You know what that means? You know, beyond sibling bickering.

It means that our oldest son left elementary school behind a week and a half ago.

We attended the end-of-year Awards Ceremony and Fifth Grade Graduation. I knew the likelihood of bursting into tears was rather high, so I wore waterproof mascara. I should have gone for no makeup as I kept wiping the continuous leak from my left eye, thus wiping all makeup down to my eye cream off and leaving a giant red mark under my eye.

It’s not that I’m sad the kid is growing up.

But, approximately six blinks ago, he looked like this.

Somewhere In Between: First Day of Kindergarten

And now he looks like this.

Somewhere In Between: Last Day of 5th Grade

And somewhere in between, he looked like these versions of himself.

Somewhere In Between

It’s that somewhere in between that really gets you.

Somewhere in between, when you’re in the thick of constantly signing agendas and reading logs and permission slips, you finally miss the agenda one night. You know, the day after you ran a marathon, or something. And the look on their face lets you know one thing: They now know you can fail them… just in case they didn’t know yet.

Somewhere in between, when you’re making lunches and forgetting to send lunch money and fretting about their nutrition and making healthy after school snacks and letting finally them scavenge for themselves because they’ve got to learn how to eventually, right?

Somewhere in between, when you’re helping them learn to sound out the -ed at the end of words so it doesn’t sound like ghost-Ed, a ghost named Ed; going over spelling and vocabulary words; helping them choose right verb tenses—and then suddenly they’re correcting your grammar and you’re all, “Wait. What?”

Somewhere in between, when you start out explaining that two plus two equals four BECAUSE IT DOES and holding them when they cry because they weren’t first to finished a timed math fact test and reassuring them that their worth is not defined by a state test and receiving a letter that your child is gifted in math and you cry a little because he worked so hard to get to that point and you had nothing to do with it other than making him believe in himself.

Somewhere in between, when they think the sun rises and sets on the heads of their first teacher to listening to a rant about why such-and-such teacher is so unfair to standing up for them when they need it to teaching them to stand up for themselves in the academic environment because you can’t fight all their battles to having a teacher tell you that they’re going to miss your kid the most.

Somewhere in between, when every kid is their friend to no one is their friend to situations that aren’t bullying but just kids being jerks because kids can be jerks to an incident that makes you want to punch another child in the face for hurting your baby to reassuring your kid that they’re cool and/or that cool is overrated to losing control over who they’re actually friends with to taking pictures of them with their best friends on that last day and realizing you knew these kiddos when they were that little too and it makes you want to cry again.

So you do.

Somewhere in between, when your kid loved school more than anything to when they hated it and didn’t want to go to the nervousness that accompanies leaving behind elementary school and heading to middle school which you know won’t be fully felt until the first day of school next year—for either of you.

Somewhere in between, he turned from a little boy into a tween. Somewhere in between, he learned a bunch of important lessons in everything from academics to life skills to relationships.

Somewhere in between, he stopped holding my hand in public. He recently refused to kiss me at bedtime. His attitude rivals that of my own at that age. He’s starting to play the trombone. His feet are bigger than mine.

Additionally, I have the honor of watching him play Little League this year in the Majors, comprised with 11- and 12-year-old boys. The difference between the end-of-fifth-graders and the end-of-sixth-graders is painfully visible, and so I am aware that even at the end, we remain somewhere in between as big things are about to happen.

I feel incredibly thankful for the experience he had in elementary school. I feel unprepared for what comes next, just like every other time he’s started in on something new.

On to the next somewhere in between which we got a preview of the day after fifth grade graduation at my cousin Hannah’s graduation party.

Somewhere In Between: A Preview

Well then. Okay.

Wash Away the Rain

Suicide Is Not An Easy Way Out

I need to set the record straight.

Suicide is not an easy way out. Ever.

No one comes to the decision to end one’s life on a whim. You do not get to that place without suffering, greatly.

I shared a number of articles during the height of 13 Reasons Why on Facebook. I wanted to provide a counter-argument to the “at least it’s starting an important conversation.” No conversation about suicide should happen without a co-occurring discussion on mental illness and mental health.

The idea of revenge suicide is neither fair to those left in the wake of a suicide nor those who have fought their own demons and lost. To get to the point in which you think death by your own hand is a good idea, you must first suffer from some form of mental illness. A healthy brain will not go there.

Yes, a sexual assault can act as a catalyst as it can send the survivor into PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). Yes, bullying can exacerbate an already struggling mind, but again, a healthy brain won’t just decide to travel the route of suicide.

Do people feel guilty in the wake of anyone’s death by suicide? Yes. We all have what if moments in which we question what we could have or should have said or done. I felt that way last summer; I still feel that way. We can hold individuals accountable for things like bullying, stalking, or other immoral and/or illegal activities, but we cannot lay blame solely at their feet.

Recently, Chris Cornell’s death by suicide had many in Generation X pondering our mortality. 52 is too young to die by any means. I listened to Soundgarden as I read a number of pieces that came out in the wake of the news.

I found myself nodding along with one. Until the author referred to “young kids” and suicide as an “easy way out.” The author has since edited his post to remove the “easy way out” and reference to another musician’s suicide as “petulant,” so I won’t link. But let’s address it anyway:

Nope.

No.

No.

Suicide is not an easy way out, not even when you’re a tween or teen. You see, as adults, we are afforded the luxury of hindsight. We can tell our tween and teen children that, yes, life gets better. That someday mean girls won’t run their mouths (though that’s a lie). That someday they won’t care what others think (though that’s not always true). That their hormones will even out and things will make a little more sense (until they go all wacky again). That they’re not alone (that’s the truth, kiddos).

But in that moment, to that young person, sometimes the problems seem insurmountable. Sometimes the self-loathing that often accompanies Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) makes a teen feel like the world would be better off without them; that they can’t do anything right; that they’re always hurting other people; that they deserved to be treated that way. I’ve recently been discussing suicidality among adoptees with a group of smart women. Trauma can begin on Day One, folks.

The truth is that children, tweens, and teen are not exempt from mental illness. I wish they were. Oh, I wish. But we’ve been living it for two years now. I’d give anything for my daughter to feel like she belonged on this planet, that her life has purpose, that she is as beautiful as the rest of us see her. But that’s not her reality right now; it’s not our reality right now.

I was once a teenager with an undiagnosed mental illness. My anxiety during my senior year was so high that I couldn’t function, even though to the outside world, I seemed just fine. I wasn’t. A teacher recognized this and set into action a series of events that should have given me a diagnosis and treatment. It was the 90’s and we didn’t want to believe teenagers could have mental illnesses, so nothing happened.

And nothing happened when I was hospitalized in college after an attempt to take my own life.

It wasn’t until I was a Grown Ass Adult, had birthed two babies and was parenting one that a doctor said, “Oh hey, you kinda sound like you have Generalized Anxiety Disorder.” Yeah. I did. I do. I likely have since I was a young teen. I likely always will.

Now our generation listens when a child talks about suicide, no matter their age. Generation X listens because we weren’t heard. We talk about it, online and in person and with our kids and with strangers, because it matters. Because we want our kids and our peers and the parents we care for to know they’re not alone.

No, suicide isn’t the easy way out, for the younger generation or those of us Gen X’ers fighting—tooth and nail—to survive each and every day. It’s an excruciating journey which ends one life and throws many others into crisis, and it’s one that we hope, by talking about it in real, valid, edifying ways, we can help other avoid.

Suicide Is Not An Easy Way Out

If you’re struggling with parenting a suicidal teen, start here.