When I was growing up, I would get so depressed over the winter months (I suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder—ironically acronymed SAD—among other problems) that my mom decided it was best to ignore February (I believe the calendar creators knew February was the suckiest month of the year, thereby making it the shortest to endure). Thus began my foray into extended January.
In my vague memories, I seem to recall her not flipping over the calendar or writing over February with “January” and rewriting all the dates, making February 1st January 32nd… February 2nd would be January 33rd… and so on. I don’t really know if she did these things or if it is all just a figment of my overly active imagination. What she didn’t do was try to help me get better.
I think it’s hard for mentally ill parents to raise psychologically healthy kids. Dysfunction is at least as much nurture as it is nature. I recently came across a book I bought nearly two decades ago (but held on to): Things Will Be Different for my Daughter. I was terrified when I found out I was having a girl; I was so worried she would grow up to be like me (introverted, self-conscious, lacking self-esteem). My best friend helped me coin a term about this: Failure to appreciate your own awesomeness. I bought that book with the goal of my daughter never doubting her own awesomeness.
I’m not a big fan of self-help literature, but my daughter not only recognizes her awesomeness, she is—in fact—truly awesome.
Which brings me to my son. If God exists, well, It has a real sense of humor. Because it turns out that my son is the child I really need to worry about with regards to self-confidence. He struggles on a regular basis (true, in part it comes from having such an awesome older sibling… I learned from my sister that it’s never easy to follow in the footsteps of an exceptional sib). He has issues at school and issues with his dad. Unlike my daughter, he needs to learn happiness; it doesn’t come to him naturally.
So, for February (earlier this year, as a New Year’s resolution, I vowed to read one book each month), I’m reading The Optimistic Child, a self-help book that vows to be “A proven program to safeguard children against depression and build lifelong resilience.” I hope this will help me help my son to stay in the light (even as the days remain short and cold). While my son does not appear to suffer from depression, he does have that “edge” to him that my daughter never had. I want to do everything I can as a parent to foster well-being in him before he hits those dreaded adolescent years.