So it was a momentous day yesterday for a number of reasons.
- I finished my second book from the list: All the Bright Places (Jennifer Niven); and
- I returned to work for the first day back after more than a year.
All The Bright Places was really an enjoyable read. The cover describes it as “the story of a girl who learns to live from a boy who wants to die”. Theo (Theodore Finch – Finch for short) and Violet are two troubled teenagers who find each other at a tumultuous time in their respective lives. Violet recently lost her sister in a car accident where she survived. Theo is searching for the meaning for his existence and his identity following his parent’s divorce, troubled school life and the usual ups and downs of being a teenager at school. Their first meeting is precarious as they find themselves on the ledge of the bell tower at school, for different purposes. They become friends, and more, sharing their lives and fears together as they work on a school project ‘wandering’ around beautiful and eclectic places in their home state of Indiana. They share their love of writing, words and books and this extends to numerous communications in the form of extracts of books and poetry ranging from Virginia Woolf to Dr Seuss. Even the most childish of phrases appear prescient to their budding relationship.
Finch changes his persona often – ranging from what he calls ’80s Finch’ to ‘Badass Finch’, amongst others. He has a small group of friends that accept him and his various personalities without question as he struggles to find his identity and his purpose. He helps Violet through her grief and guilt as she remembers her purpose and what she enjoys. However she still struggles to understand why her life was more important than her sister’s life which was taken so arbitrarily in a car accident. Finch takes solace in the fact that, in his own words, “The great thing about this life of ours is that you can be someone different to everybody”.
Finch does this well, and he is transforms himself into various different someones to everybody else, but it seems he doesn’t understand which someone he needs to be for himself. When this overcomes him he terms himself ‘asleep’ as he disappears for stretches of time to find himself, with limited communication with his family and friends.
This book reminded me of the huge challenges parents face:
- Losing a child;
- Dealing with the grief and staying strong for your other children;
- Trying to understand the teenage psyche without intruding and overstepping;
- Fostering the right amount of freedom and responsibility without being too lax; and
- Knowing when you have to step in and take control of a spiralling situation.
When I think about my first day at work and the stress I felt about getting the kids ready for school and heading to work (which required me to venture more than 20 minutes away from the centre for more than an hour – the first time ever!) and the anxiety I felt about this, it pales in comparison. It wasn’t a bad day, however I only made it to 11am before calling the centre to check on them, only to find they were completely content and happy. On the train I willed it to rush me home (I had also finished my book and didn’t have a spare so was additionally keen to get home!). My better half was completely capable of daycare pick-up, dinners and baths but I couldn’t let my worrying mind rest. When everyone screamed at us both this morning for half an hour over seemingly inconsequential things (V2 flipped her weetbix over on her table (intentionally, of course) and V1 gave his dummy to the puppy to lick so couldn’t understand why he then wasn’t allowed to have it), the phrase “will we look back at these times fondly?” runs through my mind.
It is then that I remind myself that every problem seems big at the time however at this young age we are extremely lucky that the problems our kids present us with are relatively ‘simple’ ones to deal with. It will only get more interesting, exciting and challenging as every day passes. I know our practising and discovering how to help our little ones now will hopefully put us in good stead for when they come home as teenagers with grown-up problems for us to help with and provide guidance. Granted, nothing can prepare us for some of the problems the parents in this book have to face, but I was reminded throughout that it is so important to look at a little bit of a bad day, with a lot of perspective.