The Adventures Of Fatherhood – December 17, 2021

If my pulse on school-aged families in this community is even close to right, there’s a lot of excitement today. It’s the last day of school for two full weeks.

It doesn’t require having kids in schools to understand there’s a host of mental health concerns currently facing students, educators and parents. Although tough to relegate all to consequences of the pandemic, there are new struggles today confronting students, parents and teachers.

I truly believe we need to slow the pace of life for everyone. Consequences of the pandemic, such as the associated isolation, economic consequences and an awareness of the divides of society, are real. Social awkwardness, anxiety, pressure and normal maturation uncertainties have combined to create an abyss of oddness. Though no simple solutions, all agree mental health has become a top issue facing schools.

From many conversations, I sense parents, students and teachers need breaks from the routine more often. Parents are more open about their issues in life. Students, dependent on their age, hold reservations about expressing themselves. Teachers will share their concerns, but many seem reticent as they do not want to appear whiny about their professions.

Make no mistake, the stress, pressure and anxiety are real. All it takes is a chat with a classroom teacher. The fatigue is obvious. The same goes for the parents. There seems to be an undercurrent of intense pressure, resulting in some kids feeling overwhelmed while others are distancing themselves amid self-doubt and waning confidence.

The challenges are different for each child dependent on age, life circumstances and socioeconomic factors. It’s clear there are mental health concerns beyond the pale of normalness. The problem is finding the root cause and working toward solutions.

There is a vulnerability that’s different now and it’s palpable. In my household, there are many battles to work through. Each child brings a host of complexities to our world. This is to be expected, but everything seems more edgy and emotional these days. We think it stems from anxiety.

The only thing Pam and I know for certain is the right approach is to stay present. We want to be aware. Remaining committed is easy for us. It’s the constant shades of gray accompanying the tasks that consequently give us the challenges. It’s comforting to know there are others experiencing similar journeys.

Perspective is paramount. If we are present, trying and loving, maybe that’s enough. Maybe it’s all our kids need. Maybe not. It certainly does not always seem like it’s enough. Through the trials and tribulations, I am choosing to believe being consistent matters.

Every family in each household is dealing with unique differences. I believe each child has different needs. We need to open our collective eyes and be cognizant of these challenges. Bringing perspective and support will help everyone.

If one parent decides at 13 his or her kid can have social media, it doesn’t mean the parent across town who prefers to wait has the right to criticize the other’s discretion. Situations like this compound the daily issues facing parents, resulting in unnecessary worry and wasteful energy. There needs to be more tolerance and awareness and less external judging and second guessing of what we do not know. A bumper sticker, “Support More, Judge Less,” works for me.

Everywhere I turn parents are beating themselves up. I do it. My wife does it. It’s natural I suppose to second guess decisions and question feelings and thoughts. It’s a consequence of love. I suppose a certain amount of anguish is inevitable, but it sure would be better for everyone if we support each other and compete less. More asking with concern rather than inferring with skepticism.

This following message came from the National Autism Association, but I think it applies to so many aspects of parenting and for all of us who are working our way through this journey.

“Am I doing this right?

I’m doing this wrong.

What could I do better?

I should have tried that.

I should have known that.

This person thinks I’m over-parenting.

That person thinks I’m under-parenting.

I’ll do better.

I’m doing everything I can.

I need to do more.

But wait a second.

I know what they think, but what do I think?

It’s not what I think, it’s what I know.

Everything I do is because I love.

I love. I love. I love. So I will keep trying.

I will keep going.

And I’ll always come back to what matters most.

Those eyes. That heart. That smile.

My beautiful child, and their amazing life ahead.

And I won’t forget to give myself a few fist bumps along the way.”

About The Author: Steven Green

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The writer has been with The Dispatch in various capacities since 1995, including serving as editor and publisher since 2004. His previous titles were managing editor, staff writer, sports editor, sales account manager and copy editor. Growing up in Salisbury before moving to Berlin, Green graduated from Worcester Preparatory School in 1993 and graduated from Loyola University Baltimore in 1997 with degrees in Communications (journalism concentration) and Political Science.