Have you ever been in the situation where you are happy as a lark, you are “in the green” – meaning the grass is not greener on the other side because you are on the side where the grass is beautifully green; you are feeling good about your friends and family, your worries are temporarily buried? Then…your child comes up to you from the playground or your older child gets in the car or off the bus from school and someone has been mean to them, or maybe they got reprimanded by the teacher or they failed their spelling test (after ALL that work with you the day before!). You are instantly, not only out of the green, you are flat out miserable, depressed and can’t even see the light at the end of the tunnel. You should pray immediately but you are kind of mad at God for letting this happen in the first place.
Our oldest son, John, was just finishing fifth grade at our precious little school down the street where the teachers were nurturing and Moms hung out half the morning just chatting at dropoff (think Montessori-ish). John had gotten his usual report card of straight A’s. I secretly thought this sweet school only gave out A’s. Anyway, John didn’t seem particularly challenged and he mentioned an interest in trying the local public school for the “gifted.” We had him tested; he qualified; so John became a big sixth grader at a new school. The kids in his class had been together since the 2nd grade and they were not excited about accepting a new, gawky 12-year-old into their tight knit group. One lunch period, the group of boys John had joined for lunch proposed the idea of spending the rest of the period playing basketball. Some unthinking, unmannered boy said, “Whoever doesn’t want John to play with us, raise your hand.” You guessed it…every hand went up. I still tear up even though John is 33 years old now and is happy as a clam, loving life to the fullest. I wanted to either call this boy’s mother and give her a piece of my mind or I wanted to slip a little arsenic into this little meanie’s sloppy joe. The funny thing is that I was a lot more bothered than John. He kind of blew it off and moved on - while I simmered.
Years before, I had gone to the boys’ preschool to hear a psychologist speak and he said something that I’ve thought of a million times since. He said, “…many of your children live in a pretty great world. They don’t have many disappointments to deal with, which robs them of the opportunity to learn to deal with bad things happening.” And here’s the kicker, “If your child doesn’t have much to be disappointed about, you should even go so far as to engineer disappointments.” He also relayed that his theory was that teenaged suicide largely comes from a teenager meeting a disappointment (a break up, a failure at sports or school) and can’t see to the other side – he feels helpless in his circumstances and makes a tragic choice. Here is the point of my sad tale: John learned a lot that sad day. He learned that people can be mean, that life doesn’t always go the way we would want it to but we can learn to deal with it. He learned that life goes on and given a little time, things will be OK again. I learned it too.
This should make you feel better about saying no sometimes. When your child pitches a fit over not getting a candy bar at the checkout line (did he forget the sugar cookie with sprinkles he just scarfed down?) just think – this is good practice for my little one. Of course, you will have to endure the stares of other shoppers, but if you stick to your guns, your child will know pitching a fit didn’t work and maybe think it is too much trouble to try that tactic again. Bottom line: Your children NEED to be disappointed sometimes, because they need to learn to cope with bad things happening in order to become a healthy, happy adult. Try really hard not to be that parent that fixes everything before their child gives it a try. One last point, when you feel that your head is going to pop off or you just want to crawl into bed and pull the covers over your head, try to say to yourself, “This seems catastrophic right now but as hard as it is, I am going to wait 24 hours before I panic.” Chances are things will look a whole lot better when the next day rolls around.