There will be pain and there will be disappointment. That’s just the way it is and as much as we parents would like to try to limit the amount that befalls our precious children…we ultimately don’t have all that much say in the matter. What we try to absorb or head off for them now often comes back to kick us both in the tush later on…and sometimes in a worse form than the initial thing from which we “rescued” them. I may save one child’s little behind by bringing their (her) homework to school each time I find it on the freaking table…after having asked A MILLION TIMES whether it was put in the book bag… but by allowing them (her) to avoid the consequence, I may be setting them (her…yes, I am not so subconsciously alluding to one particular child who will otherwise remain anonymous) up for a maybe far off future when they (she) need(s) to bring something important into work and end(s) up not getting the raise they (she) otherwise deserve(s) or maybe even getting fired. This…at least…is what I tell a certain child when she complains about my lack of compassion.
I found myself thinking about this topic as I sat in the car waiting for various activities to end so that I could resume my job as taxi mom. It seems the closer the holidays get, the more forced thinking time I have, what with the extra rehearsals for holiday concerts, and Christmas musicals (Oh Sweetie! Yea, you got a part in the play! …wait…how many rehearsals are there..?). Actually, I find it refreshing to be stuck in the car with nothing but my thoughts…I mean, if I were home there would be a million things to do. It doesn’t take much time to tidy up the car around me as I sit (as much as my kids may see that as a challenge and continuously up the ante) and given that nor washer nor dryer will fit in there…and I swear…if anyone out there is even considering inventing a washer/dryer that fits in the car I WILL HUNT YOU DOWN…
Anyway, it had been a particularly rough day for Little Man. He had left his government study guide at school and as the two of us struggled to prepare for his test that morning, the potential of a frustrating day loomed. “No, Honey, it is the Executive Branch NOT the Executioner Branch. And though you are correct in saying that the Laws of Physics are very important…they were NOT written by the Legislative Branch.” Unfortunately, school had ended up going pretty much as foreseen and then when we’d arrived home and walked in the door, our older dog had tried to get up, slipped and whimpered a bit resulting in a conversation about how long Newfoundlands live and how sad Little Man will be when Emmett leaves us…ultimately resulting in the opening of a floodgate of tears. So…while I was in taxi-mom limbo…not enough time to do anything but wait…unable to write my Christmas cards because they had not yet arrived… I sat and I thought…and the tear-stained disappointed little face of a certain boy was fresh on my mind.
Though going through pain may ultimately accentuate feelings of joy when they happen…I am not one of those who thinks that in order to know joy one must feel pain. I am, however, someone who thinks that pain and disappointment are not only an inevitable part of life…but a vital one. The death of a small pet, like a fish or a hamster (while it may be tempting to secretly replace it) can help a child to learn to cope with bigger losses (such as the loss of a best furry friend and losses of people we love). Running full speed down a hill and ultimately crashing in a spectacular ball of dust and scrapes can teach a kid that a modicum of control over one’s actions can help them to avoid mishaps. Not getting a part in the school play can be the perfect moment to teach graciousness toward those who did get a part. And doing badly on a test can help teach the art of dusting oneself off, figuring out what went wrong, and trying again.
Sometimes it’s hard. I am guilty of having replaced deceased goldfish on the sly so I wouldn’t have to face the tears (“Bubbles didn’t have a white spot on his gill yesterday.” “Um…well, Bubbles must have rubbed up against that white fake coral and some paint rubbed off. It’s probably permanent now…”) and I have dropped off forgotten homework in a moment of pity when, perhaps, it would have been better not to. These are knee-jerk reactions and I have found that if I am able to muscle through and let things take their course, my kids often surprise me with their ability to deal without my “help” and instead with my support.
Other times it is much easier. When my kid sits there in Santa’s sleigh right in front of me and so sweetly asks for something that I have already said is a no go…that kid is going to get a healthy dose of disappointment come the 25th. Also, as happy as I am when my kids do get a part in a play…there is a part of me (the taxi mom part) that is secretly ok with not having to do the extra driving. And you had better believe that when I tell one of them to please stop texting and that kid ignores me, and then ends up face first against a wall because she (Little Man does not have any kind of cellphone) has her face buried in her phone…I’m going to chuckle.
Anyhow, as the kids grow and as I progressively learn to pull back and to be there for support as opposed to trying to deflect disappointment and pain from their paths, my hope is that they will learn to face these two inevitable parts of life head on, to use them to their advantage, and not to seek out artificial ways to avoid them. Also…I now kind of find myself wondering exactly what the Laws of Physics would look like it they had been written by the Legislative Branch…