Our teenage friend’s choice to end his life last month is still a bleeding wound in our home. My youngest son(he is fourteen) has taken it particularly hard because D was one of his closest friends and J (my youngest son) doesn’t have many friends. D and J met in Grade 1 and bonded over a mutual love of candy and swimming and over the years got up to and into all kinds of trouble. You know the trouble I speak of, if you have boys. Make the mistake of digging in their pockets and you will find yourself wishing you hadn’t because young boys like things that are gooey and slimy and sticky and you’ll come up with eyeballs and glow in the dark spit balls and thrice-sucked jellybeans. And if you’re a good parent or at least trying to be one you’ll keep digging even when they’re older and hairier and smellier. You will riffle through their jean pockets in search of fake IDs or marijuana or bath salts or whatever else some bad guys somewhere concoct from rocket fuel and compost for our kids to smoke and snort up their nose. And again I will tell you: bad idea. Really. The marijuana won’t be in their clothes’ pockets. It’s buried in the garden or under the potted Sage and the fake ID is tucked between the covers of Call of Duty Black Ops II and Battlefield 3. You’ll come up with other things in their pockets – gooey stuff because boys will be boys.
What you really need to be doing is talking. Talk about anything and everything and include them even when they’re ‘not listening’ or snapping sarcastically with comments like ‘cool bro’ but who cares?’. Talk about the headlines or news. Talk about movies or if you know they have a particular celebrity crush or favourite musician get acquainted as best you can. They’ll accuse you of course, of interference and of ‘invading their sacred space’ but persevere. Perseverance always pays off. Don’t turn your back on your kids. Don’t give up. They need to see you as another human being. Someone with eyes and ears and feelings. Someone fallible. Because they feel mixed-up and imperfect most of the time and they haven’t got it yet, the awful-wondrous truth, that we’re all imperfect in all the perfect-for-us places that make us unique.
Think back to your own adolescence. Think back to how you felt. Take your kids – preferably separately – on a ‘date’. Movie night, Music night, Dinner date. Buy them ice-cream. There’s been a lot of ice-cream eating. A lot of late-into-the-night talks with J. Love and ice-cream heals all wounds.