The Good News Is, It Gets Better. The Even Better News Is ….
I have a dear friend –I’ll call her Gina (not her real name) – whom I would always think of when my own kids were going through their stuff. Gina has two sons. I don’t know about diagnosed or diagnosable learning issues, but I can definitely say that the younger son had behavioral issues, and they were Issues with a capital “I” and in bold. He was ALWAYS in trouble growing up, and when he got to be a teenager, he either flunked out of and/or got kicked out of a series of high schools. He didn’t really go to college – or rather, he kept going, stopping, going, stopping, etc. – and ended up sort of wandering through his 20s in a not very visibly “productive” way. (Not visibly productive to the outside world, that is ….)
Fast forward to when he’s in his late 20s. Whether it’s gradually or suddenly, I don’t know, but at some point – after it has all percolated for however long it needed to – it all clicks. He decides what he wants to study, goes to college, gets his degree, gets a good job (helping people), gets married to a wonderful young woman, gets a graduate degree, has two fantastic kids, gets an even better job (helping even more people), and is the nicest, funniest, greatest guy EVER. And he is an AMAZING husband and dad.
So anyway, I would always think of this son – I’ll call him “Jimmy” (our all-purpose, composite “kid with issues”) – when I needed some shred of hope that “It will get better.” “My kid is having trouble in school — but so did Jimmy, and look at Grown-Up Jimmy now!” “My kid is getting into trouble as a teenager – but so did Jimmy, and look at Grown-Up Jimmy now!” “My kid doesn’t seem to have any direction in his early 20s– but neither did Jimmy, and look at Grown-Up Jimmy now!”
Grown-Up Jimmy is my perfect example of a long-term perspective, and I would often remind myself of that when things were really bad with one of my kids. I still do. It is one of the ways I have stayed sane (or tried to).
So …. I sent this blog, and the video, to my friend and asked if I could interview her, since we were interviewing people who had raised kids with issues, and whose kids grew up to be wonderful adults. (If only we all had a crystal ball … it would help with long-term perspective so much!)
For the record, she is in her 60s, and her son is now in his late 30s.
Well, I just talked to her on the phone, and she said — “You know, I saw your email, and your blog, and I thought, ‘Why is she sending this to me? She must be mistaken. Who is she talking about?’ And then, much later, I realized you were talking about me!!!”.
So this is what she just told me and what she would like to share:
When you get old enough, not only will the kids almost certainly get better, but YOU MAY FORGET ENTIRELY THAT IT HAPPENED! (Whether it’s our poor memories at that age or just the passage of time or whatever…).
(I must add here that there are times when this will most definitely not be true. Depression, drug addiction, eating disorders, etc. come to mind – if you have dealt with what can be life-threatening issues with your kids, not only will you probably never forget, but you can have significant long-term PTSD …. and there are many other issues which, while not at this level, will still require constant support. We are addressing these things in a future post.)
However, for many of our kids’ issues – the ones that make life so hard for them as kids, but can become moot, or just really well coped with, or – hallellujah! – even benefits as they become adults, this may be the “Even better” after the all-important “It gets better.” Because it really does!
So maybe the moral of this story is … by Martha’s and my age (old enough to have kids in their 20s), the kids will be better (hopefully), and we can look back and laugh … and write a blog like this. And even if they’re not 100% better … hopefully, we are, at least in how we deal with it and react to it!
And then, by the time we’re in our 60s and beyond, and our kids are in their 30s and 40s …. we may quite possibly have forgotten all of the difficult stuff entirely! We may even see something like this and think, “Thank goodness that wasn’t me!” 🙂
(Good thing we are writing this now!)
Oh, and by the way – when Gina told this story to her older son (who was supposedly the “good” son, but really, he was just better at staying under the radar), he said something to the effect of, “I’d be happy to remind you about a few things that my now-wonderful little brother did” … to which Gina replied – “No, thanks!!”
It may all end up coming back to her pretty soon, though. Gina says that she thinks one of Grown-Up Jimmy’s kids may soon be giving him a run for the money ….
Something tells me that Gina is going to get a bit of a kick out of that.