Like a closet smoker who outwardly tells their children not to smoke, I regularly caution my kids on the pitfalls of social media while covertly sneaking far too many visits of my own to that terrific waste of time called Facebook.
Occasionally, however, I’m glad I did; Like recently, after reading a post by KJ Dell’Antonia who writes the Motherlode blog for The NY Times. When her son broke his leg KJ posted:
"Sometimes, when something goes wrong, people do not want to hear that it is all going to be OK, or that so-and-so had that happen and it was all fine, or any of a variety of such things. Sometimes it is better to just agree that it sucks, and leave it at that."
KJ’s post brought back a memory of my own.
When my son was seriously injured eight years ago, the incident received a good deal of media attention. Consequently, there was an outpouring of condolences from countless friends, family and strangers.
There is one encounter, however, that to this day, continues to stand out.
While exiting my car in the Big Y parking lot, I ran into a woman I knew casually from my son’s class. After the perfunctory hellos, she took my hand and simply said, “This sucks.”
Although somewhat numb at the time, I recall feeling strangely comforted by those words. For once, no one was trying to help me embrace the “hopeful future” or the “reason everything happens.” This woman straightforwardly gave me the go-ahead to be miserable for a moment – which I didn’t even realize I needed at the time.
I’ve resurrected those two words on many occasions when my kids have been distraught or disappointed and when my initial impulse was to try to “make it better.”
In our quest to help kids understand that “this too shall pass” or that “others have been through the same or worse,” we often forget that a little empathy – an understanding that things simply do suck sometimes - goes a long way.
I was moved by a comment a woman named Eileen posted in response to KJ’s post. Eileen wrote:
“It's an integral part of humanity, of compassion to just be present with someone in their pain. And I think as parents something we don't do enough of with our quick fixes and platitudes. Really the best thing you can offer a child is the opportunity for them to be heard, and hugged.”
During this Thanksgiving week, I’m thankful that if I am going to be occasionally lured into the frivolousness of social media, at least I have “friends” like KJ to make it worth the visit.