“Last week, I received that dreaded phonecall from my son’s high school. The one no parent expects or wants to hear. I answered, only to find out that my son had ‘cut’ his third period class, and fourth…and fifth. When I replied, ‘Excuse me?!?!’ in sheer confusion, they reiterated it again. ‘Your son cut class today. He was not present.’ My first thought was, ‘They must have the wrong boy.’ THIS was not something my son would do. As it turns out, they did not. It was totally him.
As a mother, I was livid. This was not the kind of son I had raised. He loved school and was always eager to learn and expand his knowledge. He was heavily involved in sports and extracurriculars. My mind instantly took me to the dark edges of worry. Was he peer pressured to cut? Was he getting involved with the wrong crowd?! Was he starting to use drugs?!?! It didn’t take long for my mom brain to escalate things.
Talking to him about it wasn’t much help. He didn’t look me in the eye, he didn’t give me straight answers. He told me to ‘calm down’ and ‘leave him alone.’ Frustrated and disappointed, I yelled. I took away his phone and shoved it in a drawer. I grounded him. I sent him to his room.
The following morning, my anger still hadn’t simmered. My blood was boiling. How could my son think cutting class and talking back to me was okay? This was just not in his character. That’s when I heard it. It was 7:00 a.m. My son was getting ready to return to school. I heard him whimpers buzzing above the sound of water droplets splatting against the shower curtain. My son was sobbing.
When he got out of the shower, I waited for him to put his clothes on. I gave him some space to eat breakfast and pack his bookbag. Then, I slowly approached him with some small talk and asked him if he was okay. He said yes and looked down. ‘I heard you crying in the shower,’ I added. He looked caught off guard, embarrassed even. He then proceeded to cry some more.
‘Mom, I’m not feeling okay.’ Instantly, I felt a pang in my heart. I wanted to leap and hold him the way I did back when he was lying in his crib. When I asked what was wrong, he proceeded to tell me he felt extremely depressed. That nothing in particular caused it, but it just hit him out of nowhere and all at once. That he had been feeling it for over a month now and it had gotten so bad he even contemplated killing himself. He explained that he had skipped class because he just wanted a quiet space to cry alone and breathe.
I grabbed my baby and wrapped him tight in my arms. I thanked him for telling me. I apologized for yelling at him and grounding him. I told him I was so sorry I hadn’t noticed this shift in his wellbeing, though he reassured me he had been trying so hard to hide it.
So, now, my son has spent three days at home. He will be returning to school tomorrow. While these may not be the usual ‘sick days,’ he is indeed sick. Mentally not okay. I’ve given him time to sleep, de-stress, and do some of the pick-me-up things he loves, like drawing and playing guitar. I’ve cooked him his favorite meals. I gave him 20 kisses, then lots of space. I scheduled a massage for him at a local spa. I cannot tell you how much this means to my son. To have him look up at me with tears in his eyes just to say the words ‘thank you’ broke my heart into a million pieces. I wish we all could treat mental ailments the way we do physical ailments. Instead of with judgement and shame. Sometimes, it’s the mental ailments that are the hardest to treat.”
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