My daughter and I spoke at some length this evening, after she got home from teaching dance classes and rehearsing students for an upcoming competition. We’re indeed blest to share such closeness all these years, talking on the phone for hours…like best girlfriends.
It wasn’t always that way.
Until she was 16 when I accompanied her to Georgia to train with Atlanta Ballet, I was mom. I set the rules and she followed them. It wasn’t like I had to punish her, it’s just that she knew the boundaries within which to operate to keep everything on an even keel. Because my husband’s job kept him on the road and at the office from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., I functioned like a single parent. Even more so when my daughter and I lived in Atlanta while he remained in Washington, working to pay the bills.
The boundaries were stretched when she dated her first boyfriend. Their relationship lasted 3 years or so, during which time there were the usual highs and lows accompanying first love. Hers. He’d already been in and out of several relationships. On my own to figure things out, I did my best. There were conflicts for sure, but my daughter knew I always had her back. Early on I tried to send the guy packing because I thought he was pretty selfish. I relented when she ran after him. Eventually he drew me in with his charm. I was still under his spell when my daughter finally broke up with him. Thank goodness she did. He really was a selfish opportunist.
My daughter fared no better with the next few romances. She kept dating losers. Eventually these failed relationships coupled with a profession that requires so much emotional and physical stamina, caused her to spiral downwards into depression. She eventually reached out to us. Thankfully! Bursting into tears on the phone, she immediately agreed to come home so we could help her.
I flew east to help her pack and see to last minute arrangements. The ballet company kindly offered to hold her job until she returned. For 2 months, our daughter was under psychiatric care. It was determined that a concussion she’d had as a child probably altered her brain chemistry. Unbeknownst to us at the time, the accident skewed her perception of reality. Dance probably helped divert her attention from negative thoughts. There’s just so much choreography to memorize.
Only when she encountered the usual mind games that come with a job and a boyfriend, did our daughter start to overthink everything. On the cusp of adulthood, she tried to tackle her problems on her own. Dance friends her age were little help, since they were burdened with their own problems. Years passed; things worsened. A psychologist she engaged only made our daughter’s task more daunting. She could not figure out how to put her life back together again after those raw, gut-wrenching, one-on-one sessions. Her safety net, my husband and I, lived 2,000 miles away.
With the help of a few close friends to whom she finally opened up, our daughter started to find her way out of the black hole that engulfed her. Thank God for them. Thank God she reached out for help. Thank God my husband didn’t think twice about bringing her home so we could help her heal. Six years later, she’s excited to be marrying a young man who cherishes her for who she is. Her happiness is priceless.
Today my daughter told me of a 12-year-old dancer in one of her classes who lost her brother this week…to suicide. He text his friends, thanking them for trying to help. He told them they did all they could, and asked that they help his parents. Rumor has it that he had been distraught over a failed relationship. Although it’s not certain.
My daughter cried on and off the day she heard of the young man’s death. And the following day, she thought “He was only 16. A baby. And he didn’t live to see today.” She still registered disbelief when telling me about it.
Talking to our children is a lifetime blessing. We wield so much influence over them, whether we know it or not. We can never take for granted that…
…our loving words…can save their lives.
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