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Today my heart was broken.  I learned from my daughter (18) that a classmate of hers passed away.  It was not suicide, and I don’t want to speculate.  She’s just … gone.

The second my daughter told me, I flashed back to the days of elementary school, where I volunteered with these kids and got to know them.  This girl in particular said something that had my antenna up, but I cannot exactly remember what it was.  I just knew there was something inside me that wanted to keep an eye on her.  Sadly once she reached middle school, the friends groups separated and all went in different directions, so we lost touch.

Fast forward to High School I might see her here or there at pictures before a dance.  My daughter would point her out if she was around and I would tell her I was glad to see she was doing well.  My daughter knew this girl was on my heart, as I would ask about her from time to time.

My daughters activities took over my focus; volunteering  at the school and keeping up with my work and time slipped away.

There are days you think you will never get another moment alone as a mom – running the kids to and fro, chaotic schedules take over your life …and then one day, you have all the time in the world because they kids have grown.  I dare say as a mom, it’s a moment that will blindside you.  But that is another blog post.

When my daughter told me this girl passed, I broke down instantly.  I felt guilt.  I should have stayed closer in this girls life.  I may not have made a huge difference, but at least she would know she had an ear if needed.

This happened once before with my older daughter… in fourth grade a classmate of my older daughter revealed herself and issues she had in her life.  The words she uttered to another classmate I realize now were alarming.  As this girl grew older, her persona grew darker, she even changed her name.  And as I write this, there was yet another girl who showed issues that surfaced as she grew.  (I am sure I could find more if I delve).

Hindsight is 20/20 but instinct is almost always correct.  The problem is, we doubt ourselves.  So it stops with us.  And that is why I am writing.

I’m not here to blame any parents, or parent shame.  I have been around enough kids (also being one of 5 kids in my own family) to know that parents do the best they can, but the saying “It takes a Village” is more true than I thought.

I’m so thankful that both my daughters had their own village of “moms” and even dads who were in their lives to help guide them.  My mom friends had no problem guiding my children and I had no problem letting my friends guide my children, because I grew a bond with them and we all trusted each other.  But the bond had to come with the kids trusting us and knowing that WE, the moms were truly acting in the best interest of our kids.

I can honestly say that volunteering for my kids events, not matter how much or how little, made a HUGE difference not only in my kids lives, but also in bonding with other kids and their parents.  Our tribes were created and the village was born.

Prior to having kids, I looked at stay at home moms as lazy ladies who didn’t want to work.  (sweeten your words with sugar because one day you may have to eat them).  After having kids, my eyes were open (though completely exhausted) and I realized it was a HUGE blessing to be home with your kids, creating consistent security, schedules etc… (this is NOT discounting working parents who work full time and then have to come home and take care of kids/house etc… Just a different avenue).

We all have to make the best decisions we can while raising our children.  My heart goes out to single parents who have to make it all happen without a partner to lean on.  I have no greater respect for anyone than a single parent.

But, I digress… bottom line is parenting is HARD AF!!!

Most of us parents need a lifeline at one time or another.  But the thing is this… WE ARE THE ADULTS… We have been through stuff and our kids need us to be there, to guide, to help them grow, to communicate on the daily…and to be there when they fall.  NO.MATTER.WHAT!!!

Sadly, the teen years present a challenge that NONE of us were expecting, because for all that is holy, our kids are great…until they aren’t.  And let’s face it… there comes an age where ALL KIDS PUSH THE BOUNDARIES!!!  And that is why we don’t give birth to teens…we give birth to BABIES who suck us in with all their cuteness and by the time the teen years come, we are too vested to just throw them to the wolves… (although you gotta admit that sometimes they throw themselves to the wolves and then look at us like “WHY DIDN’T YOU SAVE ME?”)

I am literally writing this blog as a plea to parents to keep your eyes open to any child that may look like they need support.  I’m NOT telling you to call child services unless you are aware of a direct threat … (God knows this world is full of people with knee jerk reactions and that shit needs to stop!)

This is more a follow your heart/follow your gut post.  I know for me that if my younger daughter didn’t have the extra moms in her life, she might have taken a different path.  My girls are blessed by a village that not only looks out for them, but will call them out on their bullshit and set them right.  They are also blessed with amazing grandparents who are so proud of them. (I never had that growing up, so I’m very thankful).

I am not sure if I intervened with this girl if it would have made a difference.  And now, I will never know.  But it was an interesting day where my senior session (I’m a photographer) was with a girl I have been shooting for about 10 years now.  Her mom and I are great friends and this girl is like my own.  I picked her up at her house and off we went to our location.  Her mom said it might be best to let me just do my thing.  As I photographed her, I knew there was nothing I couldn’t say that she wouldn’t expect to come out of my mouth.  The comfort level is very precious to me.  I love my time with her ALWAYS and I think today, as we celebrated her senior year, I realized how much of her life I have been around.  She has a HUGE support system of friends and parents and she’s an amazing girl.

I simply cannot speak for the girls who struggle.  I don’t know enough about them, I just saw the patterns as they grew.  And I think on some level, we as parents have a responsibility to see these kids and literally just say, “HI… I SEE YOU!!” and start there.  So many kids feel invisible and hopeless.  They literally have no idea that they are not alone which is where we can become SO powerful on the impact in anothers life.

There have been a number of kids I have watched grow and I love seeing them wherever they pop up.  One such boy, who graduated last year with my daughter is now working for the district and I still get to see him on the field as I shoot sports.  I was walking toward him the other day and when I looked up, he was smiling and waving at me … because he knows I adore him as a human being.  I still call him my hugabug even though that was an elementary school nickname.  He knows I see him and he sees me.

Don’t underestimate that…EVER… It’s literally the smallest gesture that could make the biggest impact!!

I dedicate this post to Ollie.  May your soul be free in peace…


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