For today’s fun, we’re going to talk about all those fun conversations you get to have as a parent when your kid is going through something crappy.
“You know, you suck at comforting people.”
This. From my tween daughter, who is probably right. She was having a lot of drama and complaining about something that was going to be awful, and my response was this:
“Yeah..it will probably be horrible. Or it won’t. I guess you’ll find out tomorrow.”
This was met with the typical melodramatics. “What? Are you kidding me? You can’t just say it will be okay?”
Unfortunately, no. I cannot. I cannot just say it will be okay, or you will do fine, or it won’t be terrible and you will love it and everything will be sunshine and rainbows and unicorn poop because I cannot guarantee those things now, or for the rest of your life.
Also, my kid didn’t let me finish. Because the full response was this, which I believe to be hard, yet supportive in the most truthful way.
“Yeah..it will probably be horrible. Or it won’t. I guess you’ll find out tomorrow. And if it isn’t as bad as you think, that is a good thing. And if it sucks, well, then you’ll get through it and it will be over and maybe you’ll be a little stronger in the end.”
I could have just lied to her. I could have said that it would be fine and it would be okay and she would do great and all that, but really, the truth of the matter was that running timed sprints to a loud buzzer in middle school gym class while getting hollered at by a teacher who fancies himself a glorified drill sergeant was probably going to be somewhat disagreeable, if not downright miserable, for my non-athletic physical education hating sixth grader.
So I told the truth. Because gym class, like many things in life, including friendship woes, financial problems, mean bosses, and other such calamities, can and will suck.
I promise I am not trying to raise a generation of cynics. Nor am I wanting my kiddos to grow up with a glass half-empty outlook on life. I want to raise them to be realistic. I want to raise them to be objective. Most important, I want to raise them to be strong, and resilient. I would rather have them going into a difficult situation with the awareness that yeah, it may be hard, but they will be able to handle it, get through it, learn from it, and grow from it.
Case in point. A recent death in our family, the first of someone close to us for my youngest, left her feeling that she did not want to attend the funeral because she would feel sad, and the people around her would be sad, and that would make her sorrow that much worse
I did not tell her that this wasn’t true. I did not tell her it would not be hard, and that it would be fine. I told her she was right. It would make her sad. Our family would be sad, and yes, that would make it more difficult. But it was important to go, because we would be supporting our loved ones, and because later, when it was over, she would be glad she got to say goodbye and help celebrate that person’s life. So she went. And it was not easy. It was probably as tough as she thought it would be. There were tears. There was grief. But she got through it with lots of hugs, and in the end, was glad she went because she was surrounded by family and because it was the right thing to do.
So yeah. I might suck at comforting people. Really. And this may or may or not be the right parenting approach. I truly have no idea. Only time, teenage rebellion, and the possible need for middle-aged therapy will tell.
So I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing.
Oh, and the results of that terrible, horrible gym class day? This:
“It was worse than bad. And the teacher was diabolical. But everyone hated it, so I just did it, and got it over with and I was really glad when it was done. But at least I didn’t quit. Or cry. So that’s a good thing.”