It’s been a rough couple of weeks for millions of people. Heavy rains and flooding in Houston. Wildfires in California, Oregon and Montana. A major earthquake in Mexico City. Hurricanes (plural) off the coast of Florida. Even someone like me who does not watch the news, can’t help but read the posts, updates and images of what is going on throughout our country and beyond. It’s such a mixed bag of emotions, empathy and fear for what these people must be going through and gratitude spiked with guilt for all that I have and the safety of my family.
I grew up in Southern California where it was normal to practice earthquake drills throughout the school year. An announcement would come over the loud speaker, we would immediately stop what we were doing and dive under our desks. We’d stay huddled under our desks, trying to stay quiet until receiving the all clear. When the signal was given, we’d climb back into our chairs and pick up where we left off. Each student would also bring in an “earthquake preparedness kit” – usually consisting of a bottle of water and some snacks that were meant to tide you over if your parents couldn’t immediately pick you up. Thankfully we never had to do one of those drills during a real earthquake, but we were as prepared as we could be. Because despite all the planning you do, you still never know when an earthquake will hit. It reminds me a little bit of bringing home your first child. You are prepared. You have all the supplies, you’ve done all the drills and now here you are. The first few days might go ok but then out of the blue there is a crying spell that never seems to end or an odd rash or cough that you’re not sure how to handle. Your world is rocked. The early years are a series of aftershocks where at one-point things are literally flying off your shelves if you turn your head. No matter how prepared you thought you were, you could never have anticipated the magnitude of the impact of this little human in your life.
On the other hand, technology has given us multiple tools that allow us to measure and track the path of a hurricane. We know it is coming a week or more ahead of time. We can see the probable path it will take. We can prepare our houses with sandbags and board up the windows. We are as ready as we can be to hunker down and ride it out once the winds and rains touch down. If newborns are like an earthquake, then teenagers are like a hurricane. You know the teen years are hard and you know they are coming! You know the social and academic pressures, combined with biological changes, create a perfect storm of chaos within your child. However, in spite of all this knowing and all this preparing, in the eye of the storm we forget it all. At the first sign of a “disrespectful” response, we lash out and get frustrated with our teen, all patience for their inner hurricane blown away in a gust of wind.
The photo above was taken by my friend Peggy a couple months ago. There is no filter and no Photoshop involved. In the dark clouds, you can see the outline of a heart. This is not about finding a silver lining, but seeing that even in the darkest part of the storm, love will get you through. We’ve seen it in the stories from Houston, neighbors and strangers coming together to do whatever is needed to help each other. Our children are a force of nature. Love brought them to us and love will help us weather whatever storms come our way.
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I started writing this blog because I wanted to have deeper conversations beyond "How are you?", "Busy", with other parents. Over the years I've shared personal stories, articles, authors and topics to facilitate conversations with parents about the joys and the challenges of parenting.