Tuesday, December 04, 2018

The first Monday of December

Trigger warning: This post discusses a recent suicide attempt on BYU campus.

"Thank goodness November is over! That was an awful month. December," Andrew declared, "will be calm and relaxing and normal. We've got this."

And with that he finished scraping off his car (because although he declared December calm, relaxing, and normal he couldn't exactly put a moratorium on the cold) and headed off into the world for the first workday of December.

I was surprised, about twenty minutes later, when I heard the garage door open.

"Forgot this!" he said, picking up his briefcase and waving it in the air. "So much for a good start to December. I'm supposed to meet with a student in ten minutes but I'm definitely going to be late for that appointment!"

And with that he was off again, chuckling to himself about how he had been the one to upset the calm, relaxing, normal beginning to December.

Little did we know, a calm, relaxing, normal December was not at all in the cards.

Andrew pulled into the parking lot of the Tanner building just as an ambulance was peeling out. He wondered what had happened as he walked to the building but his question was answered as soon as he made it through the doors and his eyes took in the grisly scene—pools of blood on the floor; ashen-faced bystanders; an eerie, solemn silence—a scene minutely at odds with the merry Christmas tree in the lobby, its cheerful decorations twinkling in the early morning sunlight.

Someone had jumped from the forth floor of the atrium and landed in the plaza below.

The day was anything but calm, relaxing, or normal.

Tragic. Chaotic. Stressful. Wretched. Somber.

Not normal.

Whatever outside pressures this poor girl was facing was nothing compared to her inner turmoil, I'm sure. She's at the hospital in critical condition. Her family is, I'm sure, devastated.

It was a pretty awful way to start December.

I've been wondering if Andrew playing the absent-minded professor and forgetting his briefcase at home wasn't a blessing. Timing-wise, had he not had to return home for his briefcase, he would have been on campus in time to have things unfold, rather than simply seeing the aftermath.

The aftermath was enough.

I'll drop the number for the Suicide Prevention Hotline, should you be experiencing the same depths of desperation: 1-800-273-8255. They are also available to chat online 24/7. Please don't feel like there is no one to listen or that there is no way out.

I've been thinking about resiliency a lot recently, and specifically how to raise resilient children. I don't know the answers but I do have a theory.

A young mother I know right now is feeling rather overwhelmed by her duties as a mother. She wants to protect her children from everything and everyone constantly feels like she is failing to do so. I don't wonder why because this seems like an enormously impossible task!

My goal as a parent is not to protect my children, though I do admit I do my fair share of protecting (we do have a baby gate at the top of our stairs (and the baby may or may not have ended up on the wrong side of the gate last night and was clinging to the gate, whimpering, with his toes clinging to the few inches available on the top stair (I don't know how he got on the other side of the gate, precisely, because he was on the right side and then some children passed through the gate and suddenly he was on the wrong side and it was a tense few seconds. I heard the baby making weird noises and started looking around for him and then I saw his little fingers clutching the gate and I screamed, "WHAT DID YOU DO?!" at one of the children (Benjamin; it was Benjamin who was mucking with the gate) and Daddy, who was closer to the gate ran over and grabbed Alexander and it was all fine but, like, wow))). We wear seatbelts and helmets and lock our front door. So, yes, we do protect our children.

My bigger goal, I suppose, is to prepare my children.

In theory, Alexander knows to turn around and go backwards down the stairs (still, our stairs are really long and steep so we also have a baby gate). In theory, our children know what to do if they stumble across pornography on the internet. In theory, our children know what to do if a stranger asks them to get in their car (though that doesn't always work out so well for the three year olds in our family). In theory, our children have our address and telephone number memorized so they can share it if they need to.

Sometimes I fail at preparing my children (for example the time Zoë got into a stranger's car instead of just saying, "I'm not crying because I'm lost. I'm crying because I'm angry. My big sisters and brother are at the playground, which is where I should be, too."), but rather than looking at it as a complete failure we can simply reassess our preparedness so we're better prepared for the next time.

Rather than hope they never get a skinned knee, we have given our children first aid kits knowing that, despite our best efforts, they are going to get hurt. But then, can they handle their wounds?

Have we prepared our children to deal with grief adequately?

Have we prepared our children to walk to school safely?

Have we prepared our children to live on their own?

Have we prepared our children to handle disappointment? The rigors of college? The daily grind of the workforce? Heartbreak? Sprained ankles? Sleepless nights? Unemployment? Infertility? Rejection? Loneliness?

There's really no end of trials they could see. And there is really no way to protect them from all of it (or any of it). And so we prepare them, the best we can.

But still, the unthinkable can happen, and often does.

Life has a way of being surprising. It may be impossible to prepare my children for the unknowns in their future, but it's certainly an easier task than trying to protect them from it.

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