Last year, Aidan’s Pre K teacher placed an urgent call to me. In the middle of nowhere, while on the bus, I sat and listened to her panicked call. “Aidan has threatened to kill himself.” When I asked about the events leading up to this comment, she said he was frustrated with an art project. He ripped it up and that’s what he shouted. I then received calls from the school psychiatrist and the principal to schedule several appointments.
As any parent knows these days, this phrase is common on many a tv show to denote frustration. Turn on any Disney or Nickelodeon show and you will hear cute teens yell “I’m going to kill myself” over any sort of minor drama.
This past weekend, an 8th grade boy at Sam’s school hung himself. While I do not know the boy, my understanding from friends is that he was going through regular pre-teen depression. He was having typical trouble adjusting to new hormones and new situations. No one saw it coming. It was a total shock to his loving parents.
Today, our family went to a bar mitzvah expo filled with potential DJs and entertainment for Sam’s bar mitzvah. I dreaded going to it and hated every minute of it, but I couldn’t figure out why. While driving home it hit me. I hated this part of my life. Middle school. Popular kids and puberty. Who was invited to whose bar mitzvah and who wasn’t. It stung when you were excluded. All of it was hard. I never thought it would end.
Tomorrow, Sam and his middle school peers will have grief counselors and assemblies to talk about their feelings. Why and how did this happen? There will be discussions and theories.
But I know why. It’s the myopic feeling of this age group. They can’t see past these years. Past the ugliness of cliques and pimples to the beauty of college and careers; of marriage and children.
Yesterday, Sam and I saw a great Phoenix production of the musical Rent. The words of the song “No Day But Today” from that show reminded me of the perspective of young adults. “There is no future, there is no past..there’s only us, there’s only this …no other road..no day but today.”
We need to help our kids realize that today will be over very quickly. That they will one day look back at their 7th and 8th grade troubles and realize how fleeting they were. There is a whole amazing future ahead. These days will not define them.
The phrase “I’m going to kill myself” is so commonplace these days that it seems cool to say it. An easy way to accept embarrassment and say ‘I can’t believe what I did’. Social media must make it all the more difficult to run from adolescent mistakes.
Once the teachers and staff in pre- K acknowledged that 4 year old Aidan never tried to hurt himself nor did he know what killing himself actually meant, they calmed down. However, I don’t blame their fear. It is too often used by teens in their everyday vernacular. And it is too often actually happening.
I feel so sad for our community, for this boy’s family and friends, and for the kids at Sam’s school who will be dealing with the aftermath. I hope the staff at his school use this opportunity to remind kids that there is a whole world waiting ahead.
And that there are 525,600 minutes each year filled with seasons of love waiting for them.