The title… it seems out of order, but it isn’t
Let me catch you up. We are a modern family… husband, wife, 2 kids, dogs, jobs, school(s), responsibilities, a sprinkle of social interactions and a rabbit. <- (RABBIT?! WTF?) (pssst… hey, leave my bunny alone… he’s a dapper dude) The wife and I were high school sweethearts and have been married for 27 years. YES! I think in this day and age, that’s quite an accomplishment. Our 2 kids have seven years between them, with my oldest just getting ready to turn 22. My youngest (I’ll let you do the math), is a teen with all the normal trappings of what a normal teen goes through, and then some. You know what I’m talking about… anxiety, hormones, high school, uncertainty, the constant feeling of impending doom, girls, boys, social life (both virtually and IRL), homework, expectations, learning to drive (OMGWTFBBQ), self image… and a whole host of other things I’m not aware of because, well, I’m a parent and I’m sure he hides stuff from me. I KNOW he hides stuff from me. That’s fine, I’m okay with it as long as he’s healthy and safe. But that’s the thing… healthy and safe. And I’m not talking about the physical part of healthy and safe… It’s the psychological aspect that concerns me the most. The physical part will follow suit. You see, he’s transgendered and while nothing like physical changes or hormone therapy has been done, he’s struggling. He has a waging war inside of him. This is a topic that’s tough enough without factoring in the complexities of all the things that a teen typically goes through. IT’S A LOT!!! I can’t even begin to tell you. Some of you may know, a lot of you DON’T know. Again, that’s okay. Support. We all need support and he’s no different. Let’s fast forward a bit.
Covid… ugh… pain in the ass for everyone. AMIRIGHT? However, it has taken a very heavy toll on our school aged children. All the virtual this and that, classes, homework, lack of social contact and interaction… it’s A LOT… My youngest was not spared in this. He’s struggled like so many other kids. Grades fell, confusion, lack of clarity, shyness to reach out to teachers, not wanting to ask mom or dad for help for whatever reason… pride, fear of disappointment, indifference, lack of motivation, etc. I rode his ass for a bit, not too harshly in my opinion, but rode his butt none-the-less. Basically, I just wanted him to stay current on assignments. I even told him that the grades didn’t matter too much, just put in the effort. I kinda figured that if the attempt at doing the work and turning it in was happening, the grades would eventually follow. This worked for a while, and I was satisfied with the work being done. His mood improved, he didn’t feel overwhelmed because he was not behind, overall, things looked to be on the up and up. Then some things happened. Relationship break up, missed a couple of days of school, fell behind in a some classes, ANXIETY… email from a teacher to the parents about NOT having ANYTHING turned in from the beginning of the semester. Wait… What? It was a banner day for me… getting my ass handed to me at work and at school. (I’m an idiot… I decided that being a parent, having a full time job, and going back to school full time was a GREAT idea… uh, no. Huge mistake) THEN, the email. Well, I laid into him. Because, I was told and under the impression that he was doing work and turning it in. And now I have a teacher telling me otherwise. So, yeah, I was a little heated. I yelled a bit, frustration, disappointment, the feeling of being lied to… I told him that he had about half an hour until dinner was ready, and then afterwards, he was to sit at the table and start knocking some of this stuff out. He was disappointed… in himself, and in me for losing my temper. He was angry at himself for lying and letting me down. He was frustrated, his body hurts from stuff we’re still trying to figure out, (RA is the current thought), his emotions are in shambles, his hormones are all over the place, his pride is hurt… you get the idea. He disappears for about half an hour and I go and call mom to fill her in. I begin the conversation with, “I lost it on him…” and proceed to explain what had just occurred. A few minutes later, my oldest daughter’s BF comes to the door to get me and says I need to come inside right now. He’s white as a sheet. I go in and I see my boy with cuts and slashes ALL OVER both arms. There is quite a bit of blood… I go into full panic mode, tell the wife, scoop him up and off we go to the nearest Emergency Services Facility. Now, before I go any further, I must let it be know that he’s a cutter… as in, he cuts himself as a coping mechanism. This isn’t new. While this is obviously not the healthiest way to deal with things, this was his method of choice during extremely stressful events. (YES, we’ve talked to professionals about it in the past. YES, they said it’s not the best thing to do, should be discouraged, but is not the end of the world type situation. I VEHEMENTLY DISAGREE, whatever, what do I know.) Okay, so at the hospital, he’s being seen, mom arrives, kid is getting cleaned up. Lots of concern about mental well being, we get a referral to see a professional for him, cuts are superficial and we get sent home.
As you can well imagine, the next few days are spent making appointments, going to appointments, lots of talking, lots of lots of things. Mom is taking him to appointments, I should really be there too, but I’m not. I’m trying to focus on some school work and I’m having a hard time with some of it. I know… I sound like an insensitive dick. IT WAS NOT MY BEST MOMENT. I MADE A VERY SERIOUS ERROR IN JUDGEMENT. BUT, nothing means more to me than my kids. NOTHING. I will say… hindsight is 20/20. This would turn out to be the catalyst for my downward spiral… I’m still in it, by the way…
So a week since the ER trip… tensions in the house are so palpable, you can actually taste it… feel it. It’s everywhere in the house. Everyone is on edge. Concern and emotions are running high. Thursday night, right before 1130pm… getting ready for bed and I look at the wife. She’s in bed, but looks pained… distraught… definitely upset about something. Youngest is in our bathroom showering. I ask, “Hey, babe, you okay?” “No, I’m not okay,” she says. “Okay, you wanna talk about it?” “After he gets out of the bathroom.” So, he finished his shower, give him a hug and tell him goodnight. Door closes to the bedroom, and we start talking. I get an earful. About EVERYTHING this past week. I feel the weight of her words, and at that moment, I knew I had made some very poor decisions. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I made a mistake and I absolutely should have been at those appointments. I get it. I’ll do better. I promise. I will not let either of you down again. I’m here for ALL of us. More arguing, more words. More disappointment. More let downs. More failings as a father and husband. more… More… MORE… MORE. I say, “It sounds like… we’re done.” She replies, “Yeah, I think so.”
That was exactly one week ago today. A lot has happened in this past week too. Lots of emotions, lots of self-reflection, lots of making sure that kid has what he NEEDS, lots of energy… both being spent and absorbed, lots of… lots of… LOTS OF EVERYTHING. But much focus has been brought forth. And it is definitely needed for myself and my family.
Endings… Beginnings… Focus.