After the services were over, a group of us went to lunch. We were all talking of how important it is to get the kids to talk when difficult things happen. We all agreed how important it is for them to understand it's okay to reach out for help.
I went home and started connecting my observations at the service with our lunch conversations and I asked myself, are we expecting kids to do something we aren't showing them how to do? We want them to come to us, be vulnerable and ask for help, but do they see us being vulnerable? We want them to care for themselves, but do they see us caring for ourselves or do they see us putting everyone else first?
As I watched the people file in to offer condolences yesterday, it was obvious who was used to hugging and who wasn't. Hugging people we care about puts us in a vulnerable position; it's an exchange of heart energy. In my observations, it was primarily men (not all the men) who showed discomfort with hugging. I hugged men who quickly pulled away, I watched awkward hugs, I saw men who looked away because tears were beginning to flow; they were uncomfortable with people seeing them in a vulnerable state. There were hugs that start as hand shakes so as the hug takes place, the hands are clasped at the chest; it seems like a bonding moment, but are the clasped hands a means of keeping that "safe" space between them? My husband never hugged his father ~ no one in that family hugged him except grandkids and me (and his wife of course ~ although not in front of us). As much as Jim is a "hugger" now, I could not get him to hug his Dad, he didn't feel comfortable doing it. These days, lots of dads hug their kids and that's awesome, but do they hug friends, male ones, when they get together? Not usually! Men especially don't like to show vulnerability. They won't go to "chick flicks" ~ all the "sappy" stuff is considered stupid. How many men open up and discuss their feelings? For so many years they were raised to "be a man", "take it like a man"; in other words, suck it up and deal with it. But we want our young men to open up and share when a tragedy occurs or when they are struggling with something. How could they possibly feel comfortable doing that when they have never seen it?
A lot of women don't even have themselves on their own "list of people to care for". I can't tell you how many times I have heard "I don't have time for yoga" or "A massage? Maybe someday...". We think we are being of service when we put ourselves last; the truth is, we are showing kids we aren't even important enough to make the list, but we want them at the top of their own list.
Now, ultimately, we cannot make choices for others; ultimately a person has to find it within themselves to seek assistance when it's needed. I know that. It's just an observation that we want kids to open up, be vulnerable and we want them to take care of themselves (sleep, exercise, eat right etc.), but the fact is, kids will do what they see and know through experience. They pay attention to our actions, not what we tell them to do. We can't expect from them what we are unwilling to do for ourselves. If we want something different for the kids, the change has to start with us.