What Parents Can Offer on a Very Bad Day

I could see him coming from where I sat, van turned off in the parking lot. It was the end of the day, but my sweet boy looked like he had lived three days since I dropped him off that morning. Three rough days. His backpack yawned, unzipped. His arms hung motionless at his sides. Head down, gaze low, feet scraping ground with each small step.

Approaching the door, he yanked the handle and his eyes glanced up through the window. Climbing in, he landed on the seat and leaned his head back at once. One tear. One tear escaped and slowly slid down the cheek I know so well. Sometimes there is no need for words.

I put my hand on his head and he imperceptibly leaned in. It’s hard to be 11 and have so much to learn. It’s hard to be 11 and have a bad day. And I may be his momma, but the truth is I cannot always make it okay. Because sometimes it is not.

Offer empathy

And while I cannot erase this struggle there are things I can do. I can try to notice. I can try to notice that life can feel overwhelming and relationships are complicated and being a kid is not always fun. I can try to notice that being eleven is a full-time job, learning how hard it is to navigate new things when there is so much to learn and life does not always flow smoothly. I can enter my child's experience in this moment and just acknowledge where their heart is.

Offer a safe place

I can try to remember that sometimes, even when you are big, all you need in the whole wide world is a minute with your momma in the quiet of your car. All you need is a place where the tear can fall and it will be okay and no one will see except someone who cares.

Offer yourself

Because if I try to remember what 11 is like, I will know again that no words can fix it and that taking away a bad day is not always what life is about. It is far more important to know that there is someone who loves you on the hardest of days, someone who will sit and be quiet and let you be sad. That matters more, almost any day.

Offer prayers

As we sat there with his head pressed gently against my hand, I closed my eyes and silently prayed for my boy. In that quiet moment, I prayed that he would not be discouraged and prayed that he would draw near. I prayed that he would learn whatever lesson this day had tried to impose upon him, and I prayed that he would always know that God gave him parents on purpose--to sit with him on the hard days and be present without filling the space with words.

Point to God

My sweet son, at 11 years old, needs to know that in Heaven and on Earth, he is never alone, no matter how hard or sad this one day can be. Romans 8:38-39 tells us,"For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." This lesson is worth learning and will be needed for many, many years to come. As we love our children we are pointing them to their Heavenly Father who loves them best. And as hard as it is to be still, I know that this is path I must take. The words I would speak would not teach as clearly as sitting here with him. So I show him this lesson and slow down our world and offer to him what I often need.

A simple, sacred minute where we remember we truly are not alone.

About the author — Nadia Swearingen-Friesen

Nadia Swearingen-Friesen is a writer and national speaker with a passion for empowering parents to approach their families with great intentionality and grace.  Nadia and her husband, Mark, are the parents of four children and live in the Chicago area. Nadia also blogs at http://nadiaswearingen-friesen.com/

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