Smiles of Monsters

When our children are young, the instinct to go to them when they are crying supplants all other drives. In the beginning, their need for food, a clean bottom, and a mighty vanquisher of all monsters, taken up residence in the darker recesses of their safe, little world, takes precedence over everything else, but as they get older, we parents tend to become lax in our efforts because our children don’t want to need us as often, and it is natural that they reach a point where they begin to resent when we intrude too much. They don’t want to eat what we’ve cooked, they are perfectly capable of bathing and dressing themselves, and the monsters come fewer and farther between as they grow brave, so we step back and allow them room to find themselves. A few days ago, I woke in the middle of the night to the sound of my oldest daughter, now seventeen, crying. Instinct kicking in, I hurried out of my bed, but it felt like I was moving in slow motion, and it took me forever to get to her. My heart was pounding so furiously I could feel it rising in my throat and up behind my ears. I learned in my own teenage years:

As our children grow up, the monsters tend to move out of the shadows and take up residence inside of them.

Lil and BirdIt was 12:38 in the morning. I came down the hall as Lilia was leaving my youngest daughter’s bedroom. “Are you okay?” I asked her, trying to get a read of her face. No tears. Perhaps she had been laughing, I thought. Or maybe it was Mar’a.

“Not really,” she answered. “It’s so strange. I was about to go to sleep, was about to put my phone down, but I checked one last thing. I just found out this Youtuber I watched committed suicide. They found him a few days ago, while he was still alive, but his brain was too damaged, and now he’s gone. I went in to tell Mar’a I love her.” She understands about monsters too.

It was strange to her, she told me, because she had never watched Cyndago’s videos before. The most recent video the group made was trending and came across her feed sometime last week, so she watched them get their hair dyed, as they had agreed to do if they raised more than $200,000 for charity. “You never can tell what is going on with a person,” she said as we sat there on her bed. “I wish he knew how much people cared. If he could only see what people are saying…”

If only.

Like when she was little, a monster needed vanquishing. I’m the mom. That’s what I do, or at least that’s what I’m supposed to do, so I tried to think of what I could say to make it better, how I could rationalize it for her, how I could take away the pain that came from the idea of her fleeting glimpse into this person’s existence, just before his end, and give her some answer to her questioning why the universe had put him in her life when it did, as though there must be some greater purpose to be found within the monster’s vicious smile. I can imagine that Daniel Kyre’s family wishes they had been around to vanquish his monsters for him as well. But my daughter was right. You can never tell what is going on with a person, unless they let you see inside, and even then, all you get is a shade of what they are truly thinking and feeling. The only thing we can do is listen. The only thing they can do is talk.

She talked about a local suicide that happened two years ago and how she felt like no one really learned the lessons Neftali’s death should have taught us about being considerate, or even remotely aware, of what someone else might be feeling. She talked about the breakup that happened more than a year ago that still breaks her heart a little every time she thinks about it. She talked about her little sister, who had broken up with her best friends around the same time, and how she felt like sometimes the only thing that kept her going then was the fact that Mar’a needed her. She talked about her deep sense of compassion for everyone, even strangers, and how she wished people would just reach out, because love is there, even though she knows it can be hard to see at times. There is Hope.

She talked, and I tried my best just to listen, so that she knew I was really there.

September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness month. Please, reach out for help.  800-273-8255

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