I was pretty pleased last night when I saw my 12-year-old son Matthew’s Instagram post. Not because it was a great-looking selfie. It wasn’t. And not because he’d said anything particularly brilliant or funny.
He posted a photo of himself, hand on his chin, looking pretty bored on the night before the first day of 7th grade. It was how he captioned the photo that made me realize that at 12, he’s light years ahead of where I was at that age. He wrote, ironically: #ughschool, #thinkimreadybutidontknowifiam, #imtiredandineedsleep.
And here’s why I loved it. He wasn’t pretending to be, literally, too cool for school. Matthew was born one of those kids who can be who he really is, and say what’s actually on his mind. It took me until my 30s to understand that the way we truly connect with other people is to say what we’re really feeling. Somehow at 12, he finds it okay to tell people what he’s thinking – “I’m really not sure if I’m ready for another year of this.” At that age, I was probably crying behind closed doors at home, and pretending to the world that it was all good, even if it wasn’t.
It’s much less stressful, I realize as an adult, not to pretend to be something I’m not. When I tell friends that yes, I have nights where I crawl into bed, pretty disgusted with myself about how I’ve parented my children that day, they often respond with a wide-eyed “Me too!” But it’s also a chance for us to remind ourselves that the next day, we crawl out of bed, apologize to our kids, and try our hardest to be a better version of what we were the day before.
None of us are on this journey alone. We have chances every day to grab hands with the person next to us, and take them along for the ride.