A Lonely Journey

Parenting a child who doesn’t fit with society is a desolate endeavour.

Your experience won’t match the social narrative about parenthood.

People will think they can say anything negative to you about your child as long as they pretend it’s jocular.

There is no way you can talk about it that will be right.

This has been a week of talking to therapists, intake workers and school officials on behalf of my spirited child and I am frustrated with all the barriers there are to truly talking about it.

We’re waiting on an appointment to see a therapist next week. But during our wait, his sister said something at her school about some of the things her brother says and does at home. Consequently her school counsellor phoned me to ask about it, having some serious concerns about what she had heard.

All the things she had heard were true. And there is nothing you can say that is the right thing to say when you are discussing your child’s potential for violence.

I minimize these things – “we are fine and we are coping,” I say. But that’s a worthless reassurance because she isn’t just worried about us, she’s worried about his potential for large-scale violence at school. And I don’t know if it’s my job to reassure her, or to alert her.

I could walk her through what I’ve reasoned this month. That the scary things he talks about lately mostly resemble things I’ve known many young men to talk about. He is at an age of drama, of fascination with danger and death. He is like many young men I have known. But I will lose my credibility as a parent. I will be seen as in denial. The conversation will become about convincing me of the seriousness of these indicators.

I could admit that I have seen the potential for the very things the counsellor fears for many years, that I read books and articles on school shooters looking for signs, and that I recognize similarities in his reasoning and outlook between him and other young men who have committed large-scale violence. But I will lose my credibility as a parent. She will wonder if my stigmatizing him has contributed to the problem and the conversation will become about convincing me that I just need to hear him and be there for him.

I’m not interested in having any of these conversations. I know that the violence he fantasizes and talks about are of significant concern and must not be ignored but I also know that it is common and most likely will lead to nothing. I know that I just need to hear my son and be there for him, but I also know that no amount of unconditional love will change him into someone I never have to worry about again.

I know that we are doing the right things, in seeking counselling for him, continuing to set boundaries at home, and staying as patient and loving as possible. But I also know that it might not be enough. And that in spite of having access to therapists and school officials, it’s still an awfully lonely journey.

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