This story was originally posted on my Facebook page, written on my phone after I got home from an appointment with my son’s pediatrician. After the school shooting in Parkland, Florida last week, it seemed like an important story to share with the world, and I hope and pray that it goes viral because it truly depicts the kind of parent I want to be, as well as how I hope other parents will be, as well. Mental health care is of HUGE importance in this country and the world. I am passionate about mental health advocacy, and I hope that this will remind parents everywhere that getting your children the right health care isn’t just about vaccinations or antibiotics. If you notice a problem with their mental wellness, it is SO important to be proactive in getting them the help they need.
Please share this story far and wide and help spread this message of love between father and son.
Something amazing just happened, and I don’t know if I have the words to convey it. But it moved me, and I felt the need to share it.
I was just in the pediatrician’s office waiting for my baby boy to be seen. A large, burly man walked in with a teenaged boy, went up to the counter and asked for an immediate appointment. After confirming his son’s birthday (born in 2003 – so he’s 14/15 years old) he was asked why he needed seen. The father didn’t hesitate, saying, “I want him evaluated for depression. Today.”
The receptionist asked him to wait while she went and spoke to the doctors. His son stood behind him, head down, looking embarrassed. The father reached out and grabbed his kid around the neck, pulling him so that their heads met. The son allowed himself to be held for a few seconds before pulling away and looking around as though embarrassed by the gesture.
Because my son is ill and contagious, I was sitting away from the rest of the crowded waiting room, so it was closer to me that the dad led his son. I wasn’t trying to eavesdrop, but they were close enough that it wasn’t hard to hear what they were saying.
The son was telling the dad that he didn’t want to be there. “I’ll figure it out, dad. It’s not that bad. I’ll be fine.” He kept trying to down play whatever situation had brought them there.
The dad listened to what his son had to say. When he finally quieted, the dad began to speak. He was looking straight into his son’s eyes as he began to tell him how proud he was to be his dad. How loved he was and how much he cared about him. He had tears in his eyes and in his voice as he said the next part.
“A couple of days ago, a young man went into his school and murdered 17 people. I don’t know what made him think that it was something he had to do, but clearly something was wrong in his head. I see the anger in you, and I see how hard things have been for you lately. I don’t want you to end up doing something to yourself or others that you can’t take back.”
His son looked mortified. “I would never do that, dad! That’s not me!”
The dad was quiet for a second and then said, “It could be anyone. Pushed too far, anyone is capable of doing something they regret. But as long as I am here I will not let you down. I will make sure you get any help you need, and I will be walking beside you every step. You are NEVER alone.”
At that point the receptionist called him over and let him know that the doctors were very busy and wouldn’t be able to see him until the next day. The dad told her that he wasn’t leaving until someone spoke with them. He told her he’d wait all day if he had to.
At that point we were called back for our appointment. We were inside for about an hour, but when we came out again, I saw the same father and son sitting in the same spot. The son had his head on his father’s shoulder, eyes closed. I don’t know if the dad was able to see it or not, but I sent a smile his way anyway.
I can’t stop thinking about this boy and his dad. I was so glad to see a parent taking steps to help their child with something that is often uncomfortable to discuss and hard to act on. I’m disappointed that the doctors didn’t make him a priority and see him right away, but I also know how busy they are with truly sick kids who need attention. After all, my son is 8 weeks old and dragging around an oxygen tank. He’s not the only one, either.
But mental health care – especially for kids who aren’t equipped to deal with negative thoughts – needs to be more accessible when needed. When someone takes the time to come in for help, there should be a way for them to get it.
I don’t have the answers for the terrible things going on in this country right now. But it has to start somewhere. Maybe that somewhere should be for people to stop joking about kids needing a “safe space” or saying we are raising “snowflakes” and start realizing that the world is different and kids have more to deal with these days. Allowing them to feel and discuss their emotions without being looked down on would be a good first step in helping them cope.
All I know is that I hope I am half the parent the dad I saw today is.