In the 80s, when I was the age my kids are now, families like the Huxtables, the Keatons, and even Mrs. Garrett from the Facts of Life could take any problem wrought with teenage angst and solve it in half an hour. Sometimes it took a “To Be Continued”, but yeah, they were able to talk to the kids and give all sorts of insight and advice and actually be listened to. Did I mention this was on TV and thus FICTION?
Fast forward 25 years. My life is not a sitcom. If it ever were, it’d probably be dropped after a mere three episodes for its lack of Drama. A lack of Drama is a good thing when you have two teenagers and a pre-teen. I’ve never been a fan of confrontation and conflict in real life, even when I was a sometimes dramatic teenager myself. Except when you have kids in middle and high school, Drama personified exists—like it or not. Not so much with my son Tyler, other than his lamentations over playing a bad round of golf during qualifier rounds to play Varsity. (Whole other post there!) But with middle school girls, Drama is mean and nasty, and sometimes she leaves scars.
For some reason, Drama likes to visit our home when my husband is away out of town for his job. And I am not Mrs. Keaton. I try—I really, really try to be that solid, listening ear that knows just what to say to make the girls see the big picture. That middle school is only a season of life, and sometimes friends are mean and you get to move on eventually. I tell them my experiences in middle school that were similar. I hug. I wipe tears. I share cartons of ice cream.
But it’s not enough.
Because when your kid hurts, you hurt. And you want to do battle for them. Even those times when you see how they played a role in Drama’s script. Except in this script there are no Take 5s—the tears they cry are real, and you want them to know it’s all going to be okay eventually.
If my life were an 80s sitcom, I’d come home from the gym with my leg warmers and sweatbands only to find my daughter upset about her school day. It would be something like Jenny inviting Susie, but not her, to the big party. She would confide in me, telling me how sad she is because she thought Jenny was her best friend. I’d console her and in a lightbulb moment of epiphany she’d see how Jenny was just a person who wasn’t meant to be in her life at that time, but it was okay. In the next scene she’d make an even better best friend and forget Jenny, who’d move away to live in Alaska, and it would all be okay. We’d have a good laugh and the ending credits would play. And it would all be okay.
Yet, as much as I hate to admit it, life unscripted is better. It’s better because we as humans have feelings and experiences that grow us as people. These hardships, these trials really do make us stronger and teach us valuable life lessons like perseverance and loyalty. If simple words from a parent kept us from feeling emotions and living life, we’d have been cheated like two dimensional sitcom characters who get to have the ending all worked out for them.
Will my children experience heartache and sadness as they grow up? Of course. Is it sad to see someone hurt them? Yes. But guess what? It is all going to be okay. Even if it’s not all worked out in a half hour.