“C’mon Jack,” Amy grabbed her keys and backpack. “We are going to be late.”
My 5’10” freshman, Jack, emerged from his room still in his PJ’s. His tousled mop of hair looked as if he had just walked backwards through a wind tunnel.
“Just go without him,” I took a drink of hot coffee and finished writing out my long’To-Do” list. “I’ll take him to school.”
Jack meandered into the kitchen, sat at the counter and poured himself a bowl of Mini-Wheats.
I wanted to scold him for not being responsible and ready, after all, I had a packed day. But, something in his demeanor made me pause. I told him I needed to clean up the kitchen before we left and since he was home, he could help.
He didn’t complain about child labor laws or protest like usual, he just grabbed a broom and began to sweep. I contemplated taking his temperature.
He asked about asthma and what it felt like. Pushing his fingers onto is chest; he made small circular motions in his muscle. It hurt to breathe. He said his stomach felt punched. I told him it might be allergies, or a pulled muscle from rough housing at the beach a few days earlier with friends. He nodded.
Looking at his face again, I knew that allergy medication, an icepack, or ibuprofen was not what Jack needed.
“Are you upset about Scott leaving for Korea?” I gently placed my hand on his shoulder.
He tipped his head up and down, avoiding eye contact. “Yeah. I am.”
“I know. Me too.” I rubbed my hand over his back like I did when he was little. Comforting his unspoken thoughts, fears and anxieties.
Jack had shared a room with his older brother until last November, when Scott left for the Army to become a Blackhawk mechanic. Scott came home for Christmas, but the time went too quickly.
Getting all of our kids together is like event planning. I knew it might be a while before we were all together again. Scott had called the night before to let us know he was being sent to Korea two days after graduating from training in Virginia. Jack had been through this before with his oldest brother, Nathan, but it doesn’t make the separation any easier.
A year is a long time to have your brother on the other side of the world.
I asked Jack if he would help me with a project I was working on, then we sat on the couch, talking about how we got our various scars. I talked about being cut with a shard of glass, pointing to the side of my calf, and how I coached the neighbor through creating a butterfly bandage. We reminisced over removing the piece of broken bottle that embedded into Jack’s foot and the time he cut his finger with his pocketknife.
Scars are proof that wounds heal, but not without leaving a mark. Sometimes wounds are not physical.
The notion that kids need their moms only when they are young is not accurate. Life’s wounds need a tender touch, especially when Band-Aids are applied to the heart.
It was almost lunchtime when we pulled into the school parking lot. Jack was late, but looking into his bright blue eyes and smiling face I knew that, just like the thin glossy marks on our skin, his heart would mend as well.
My “To-Do” list could wait, I had a teen who needed me more.
Note to self- Changing family dynamics can be hard on siblings. Make sure you take time to talk to your kids about how they are feeling and allow them to express their anxieties and concern. Being there for them sometimes means being with them, even if you have to clear your schedule.
Turn around: How have you connected with your teen to help them process things that have been difficult?
I made sure to include a chapter titled “Siblings Matter” in Empty Nest: Strategies To Help Your Kids Take Flight