As a parent of a young adult there inevitably comes a time when you have to deliver shitty news. I mean, the suckiest of shitty news. It might be their childhood dog dying. Grandma. It all sucks and is all so hard. Scott and I have tapped this dance way too many times–Do we call or wait because it’s finals week? Do we tell them in person? Do we Facetime? Should they be alone? Do we call their roommate first? What if they can’t handle the news? What if I can’t tell them without breaking down? Which child do we tell first?
Dog: Been there done that. One kid on speaker phone from the vet’s office and the other via Skype while studying abroad and me home alone, in a new town with no friends.
Grandpa: At least they had a little time to adjust to PaPa being sick in the hospital before he passed. And they’d just had a fun weekend visit with him.
Their Childhood Friend: Oh dear God in Heaven have mercy on us all. As parents, we are devastated for these kids’ parents–who can fathom? We remember these kids spending the night at our house. Playing Legos. Eating birthday cake. Learning to drive. Going to college. And here we are again as parents: Do we tell our son who is in grad school in Scotland? Do we call our daughter at her stateside grad school? Who do we tell first? How? Is it too late to call? Do we wait until we have more answers?
We decide to reach out to our children before social media reaches out to them first. Within the past two weeks, we’ve had to do this twice. Twice. Two boys they grew up with in the same neighborhood. Played with. Rode the bus with. Took pictures at graduation together. Treated each other like siblings. Dug through our refrigerator as if it were their own. Slept on our couch. Stayed at each other’s houses. Went to religious ed classes together. Confidants. Friends. Brothers. Treated our daughter like their own little sister. Showed her around his campus when she was searching for colleges. Loved the Adventures of Hank The Cowdog like no others. Two 25 year olds with their entire lives ahead of them. Gone. Poof. Just like that.
So I sit on the phone and listen to my 22 year old daughter cry. I cry. Then I cry even more when she says, “I already called (my brother) Morgan. She’s in Indiana, USA. He’s in Edinburgh, Scotland. And in a horrible, horrible, excrutiatiing painful, tear filled moment I feel this sense of pride. Relief. Joy….in that our two children have each other’s back. They are communicating about major life issues–painful adult realities–without us. And then I feel guilty for feeling proud of my kids when these boys’ parents are living the most horrific, unfair, unimaginable suffering ever.
When moments later, my son pops up in Facebook Messenger, with the simple line, “Carlos died,” I cry even more. I want to hold my boy and be strong for him and yet none of that is possible. He is 25. He is continents away. He is an adult for which this is the mere beginning of delivering heartbreaking news.
Now the child is deciding how and when to deliver sadness to the adult. To his parents.
We raise our kids to be responsible, caring adults and when we’re faced with a situation that proves they’ve become just that–well, sometimes this circle of life things just sucks.