As a parent, I question myself daily: did they get enough vegetables? Are they playing too many sports? Why can’t I have more patience? Am I raising them to be responsible and respectful? It is a never-ending battle between ‘shoulds’ and ‘what-if’s’. I used to worry that I didn’t know what I was doing with a newborn and now I’m confident I’m a work in progress as my small people grow into an intelligent, witty and opinionated boy of 7 and girl of 9.
I am now panicked I will be ill-equipped to help them navigate the emotional upheaval that comes with being a pre-teen and then a teenager. The truth is, people and especially kids, can be cruel. There is bullying and mean girls, cyber-stalking and out-right taunting.
I’ve seen the drippings of it in conversation here, but couldn’t hide from it in the media if I tried.
It happens. And each time it does, I feel it in my heart as though it is my child.
Today, I pictured myself as Karen Suffern, a single mother to 8 year old fraternal twins in North Carolina. She asked her son, Ryan and daughter, Amber to write Christmas letters to Santa. Though it is only September, she was hoping to begin planning ahead. Instead of seeing a list filled with typical 8 year old wishes, Ryan’s letter must have broken her heart.
It said, in part:
“Dear Santa … I wanted a (remote control) car and helicopter, but I don’t want that anymor. Kid at school are still picking on Amber and its not fair,” he wrote. “I prayed that they will stop but god is bisy and needs your help.”
I don’t know Karen. I don’t know Ryan and I don’t know Amber. But I cried as I read that little boy’s letter.
I cried because a mother’s heart breaks when her child is hurting. I cried because, according to the CNN story, Amber hadn’t told her mother about the misery of her school days.
I cried because, despite all of this heartache, I’m hopeful Karen Suffern is able to see a beautiful silver lining: she is doing something right…something beautiful and extraordinary.
She cannot control what other children say or do…. she cannot control the kindness or lack thereof that is shared in other homes, that is lived in other homes or at school, but she has clearly made it a priority in hers. She has an 8 year old son willing to give up all of the magic that Santa brings in order to help his sister. He did it without being asked, he did it even before coming to her for help.
THAT, my friends, is beautiful and powerful.
In our home, “Your number one job is to take care of your sister/brother” is an oft-said phrase. And every time they put it into practice, I take a deep breath, knowing I did something right. I may have skipped the veggies, I may have lost my temper, but my small people? They look out for each other.
The same must be true in the Suffern home.
I can’t take away the pain Karen Suffern feels as a mother, knowing what Amber has been going through, but that 8 year old girl has one heck of a guardian angel in her brother. This is a very good thing.
I’m also very happy to know that, as a result of the attention from Ryan’s letter, and I would imagine, conversations with Suffern, the kid’s school has released a statement about working to correct the problem and keep Amber safe.