I stumbled across my kid’s Tumblr.
In 2012, that’s the equivalent of accidentally reading your kid’s journal, which he carefully stashed away in his sock drawer for you not to see.
I scrolled down the page slowly, examining what it looks like inside my kid’s brain. I got to see which parts of pop-culture are relevant to him, which people he crushes on, and which jokes he finds humourous. His proclivity for curating Grade A absurdity is, in my eyes, somewhat of a gift. There’s a method to his madness, I’m sure of it.
Then, after a few pages of .gifs, pugs, and Avengers, I ran across a few lines of text.
They were about me.This is the moment when the parent holding the journal has the choice to either slam the book shut and walk away, or bear witness to a truth that they may not be ready for.
I did not shut the MacBook.
I sat with those seven sentences on my screen, and let them sink in.
This is what we look like to him, I thought.
There wasn’t much there to read, but I read into it quite a lot.
You see, the past year and a half has been really hard on my family. We underwent a lot of changes, some of which felt more forced upon us than chosen. Last year we had to sell our house, a house we loved, and move into a more affordable rental (which we’ve also come to love). We scaled back in a number of ways, and doing so allowed for us to keep paying the bills and putting food on the table.
These are the choices that adults make, I thought. He can’t know that, really.
What I read in his Tumblr post was a general concern that we might not have enough, that we might not be in a position to live out our dreams. He wasn’t expressing worry for himself, the sweetheart; he was worried about his dad and me, and our dreams.
He just wants us to have our “happily ever after,” he wrote.
At first, I felt a little embarrassed. We don’t get our kid but for a couple of days a week, and I hated that during the little time we have with him he picks up on our money worries.
But that feeling didn’t last. I’m actually proud of how we handled the challenges of the last few years. Things were good, then things went south, and we responded quickly and with a keen awareness of the needs of our family. We were flexible, resourceful, and we held it all together pretty well.
There was nothing to be embarrassed about. I just needed to explain what things looked like from my side of the screen.
So I wrote my kid an e-mail, and I told him that he didn’t need to worry about us. I clarified the realities of our financial situation, both for the purposes of educating him on that kind of thing, and also to reassure him. I told him that we have some money in the bank, and food on the table, and we’re fine. Both his dad and I are working to line up projects that will provide a good income for us, so he needn’t worry about money anymore.
I told him, in what I must have been a very grownup tone, that life is a series of peaks and valleys. Sometimes things are grand, and other times not so much. You have to remember in times like this, moments when things look up, that even the greatest successes are temporary. Everything is always shifting and changing, and it’s never all good or all bad. It’s best to just celebrate what you’ve got, and remember that things will change.
It was a little cliché, but it was true.
I also told him that his dad and I already have a really good hold on “happily every after.” We love each other, we take care of each other, and we wake up every day — no matter how many curve balls life throws us — and we make the choice to continue loving each other and our family.
That’s what “happily ever after” looks like, I assured him.
And then I clicked *send*.
It’s a humbling thing to see yourself through your kids eyes. It’s easy to forget that they have a perspective about the life you’ve provided for them. They have a take on everything, even if they’re not always up front about it.
I was lucky, I guess, that my kid’s perspective was what it was.
I think I’m lucky in a lot of ways.
So parents, if you run across your kid’s Tumblr, tread carefully. Scroll down if you will, and be prepared to meet your kids — and possibly yourself — for the first time.