Her eyes filled with tears when she found out she didn’t get the role she wanted in the local theatre production and my first reaction was to go ask the director why she hadn’t and demand to give her what she wanted. I bite my tongue while she cried in my arms.
The extremes of parenting: a few generations ago kids were told to toughen up, the world wasn’t run for them and they shouldn’t expect special treatment, now we run around them, trying to make everything perfect for them, telling them they can achieve anything, attract anything, do anything. We tell them the sky’s the limit and then run around killing ourselves trying to prove it and make it happen.
Extremes of anything aren’t healthy and its time we stopped kidding ourselves. We aren’t in charge of our children’s lives and maybe it’s time we had more faith in their capabilities.
It’s never a question of toughening up, but it’s time we remind ourselves that we are fueling the instant gratification fire of the 21st century within our children. They are used to Ask and receive at the lightening speed of putting food in the microwave, seeing new movies online and having questions answered at their finger tips. They have a fast flow of in and out, interested to bored, want to can’t be bothered. On the other hand, we are the generation of parents who know it’s not healthy to let them cry it out when they were babies (it’s now scientifically backed up), but we carry that though into their teens. We don’t like to see them upset, we don’t want them to cry, and it hurts us to see them disappointed. So we’ll do anything in our power to make sure.... what? To make sure they are never unhappy?
But we are also the generation that knows we are instilling beliefs and values into our children by how we live. We can’t offer them the Suck it up, life’s hard line, it goes against a deeper truth we are aware of. Life is full of infinite possibilities, it is possible to live our dreams and dance like no one is watching. It’s our generational mantra. It’s also something carved out for ourselves...by ourselves. We can’t do it with our Mommy holding our hand, taking anyone down who gets in our way.
What we often forget is that the more we try to make everything fall into place for each of our children’s smallest wishes and desires, the more we try to push ahead for them, the more we create a message that says “you can’t do this without me.” The more we stop the tears of disappointment with promises to always make it alright, solidifies the idea that what the want is the only way it can go, without any openness to what could come as pleasant surprises.
We don’t have to be the principal of the school of hardknocks. We don’t have to administer the disappointment, but we don’t have to prevent it either. We can build up our children’s sense of self value and their life time tools by reminding them that, yes, things might not be going their way, they might not be getting what they want, but what they are getting might turn out better than they could ever imagine.
My daughter took the role. She had rehearsals with people other than her friends and she seized her offered moment as a gift, rather than an insult. She rose to an opportunity, while I know I would have turned it down flat at her age. I would have been determined to have what I wanted and nothing but. Her opening night was last night and she came out of the theatre laughing and happy. She’s met new friends, had an amazing first performance and decided the role she thought she had wanted wouldn’t have really worked for her. She’s friends with the director and is looking forward to many more performances. Better yet, she’s grown in her perception of herself and how to be herself at the same time as letting life offer her chances rather than seeing them as disappointments.
Yes, there are truly times when our children become the teachers and we get to sit back and watch in awe. Our children, like ourselves, know that life is for embracing not judging and disappointment is when we are telling the universe that it has no idea what it’s doing. But deep down we know, we may not like it, but we know: The Universe Always knows what its doing.