Kids need to learn how to deal with disappointment
I’ve heard this said time and time again, especially when my teenagers were younger. Most of the time, it was meant as general advice towards today’s generation of spoiled children but the advice has been directed towards me as well. I admit, I’ve been the kind of mom who wants to make life easier for her kids than my own has been. Why wouldn’t I?
Life isn’t void of disappointment. Overcoming set-backs is an important skill kids need to acquire. By solving their problems and contriving compensations, we take away learning opportunities. Personally, I thank my engineering diploma for my drive to overcome adversity and ability to fend for myself. Still, I find it difficult to accept distress in my own kids’ lives if I have the ability to avert it.
Making up for Loss
In the first months of COVID-19, counterbalancing disappointment seemed to be the go-to for many parents. Your birthday party was cancelled (again) due to COVID? OK, we’ll have to postpone it but we’ll treat you with an elaborate in-house birthday brunch ànd an extra present!
It’s an almost instinctive way to guide our kids through difficult times: compensate distress with fun and focus on the positive .
COVID provided our kids with plenty of learning opportunities. No matter how hard we tried, we couldn’t even begin to counterbalance it all. For me, that wasn’t a bad thing. I was forced to give up control and we learned not to take luxuries for granted.
From Disappointment to Apathy
In the second year of COVID however, I witnessed my kids’ improved ability to cope with disappointment gradually begin to evolve towards a sense of resignation, indifference and even apathy. Anticipating disappointment has become their default. We didn’t experience any COVID losses. We have been grateful for our jobs, our home office, our garden retreat, our health. I’ve always been aware of our many privileges, and COVID strongly enhanced that awareness. We really didn’t have any grounds for complaining. Still, my kids’ atypical apathy saddened me, deeply.
Shrugging off Conflict
When the conflict in Ukraine escalated, however, they weren’t even upset. They shrugged in the same way they shrugged when I announced a family holiday to Germany. In their acquired mood of apprehension, a close-by war was more readily accepted than the prospect of having a hamburger in Hamburg – the latter, one of their long-time bucket list items nonetheless.
Going on a holiday while another European country was at war, felt like betrayal. Cancelling the trip would mean betrayal on another level, to my kids. So it all happened. Russia invaded Ukraine. We enjoyed our Hamburg hamburger. Geographically, we had travelled closer to the war. Mentally, we couldn’t have been farther away.
It felt uncomfortably surreal. It was exactly what they had needed.
On the way home, we were able to discuss both world politics and the history of Bremen and its legendary town musicians. The kids’ even ventured to propose ideas for our next trip – Vienna or Venice? As we were getting closer to our home town, they quietly talked about how the Ukrainian refugeesl, who had partly been travelling the same way we did, might fee. Some of them would even be staying in our town but had no prospects of returning home soon. When my teens started to plan what they could do to make the refugees feel welcome and cared for, I felt proud. But most of all, I was relieved.
They finally were shedding their indifference; learning to let go of apathy.
Do you recognize this increased sense of indifference in your children or yourself? How is your family coping with the surreal sequence of world events?
This is an original post to World Moms Network from our contributor in Belgium, Katinka. The featured image used in this post is attributed to Khashayar Kouchpeydeh from the site Unsplash.
Alas! I’d just had yet another row with my 14-year-old, and the closing banter, as always was, “You don’t know a thing! I hate you Mom!”. Feeling drained out, wretched, and eager to make things normal, all at the same time, I heard the loud thud of the door closing. She has shut her bedroom door as usual. I have the key with me, but I never try to open it. Wishing that she would come to me and apologise, I too, went to my room trying to take a nap. I put on the Brian Weiss regression on YouTube, yearning to relax.
I was now a teenager.
My individuality was slowly developing, but I was not there yet! I didn’t want to be under the shelter of mom and dad. Aged sixteen and completing my Pre-Degree (equivalent to 12th grade), I thought I knew everything better than my mom. It was the time of our farewell. Having decided to wear a Ghagra choli (Indian traditional wear) for the event, I found a good design from a magazine, and mom got it stitched for me. Unfortunately, the cloth was insufficient, and the dress did not look as beautiful as I imagined. The tailor consoled me saying that she could get it altered if I brought some more of the same cloth. I was disappointed, but mom reassured me that we would get it changed.
A day or two passed.
I didn’t see any sign of my mom getting the cloth for alteration. Concerned and having decided that mom was not going to do it for me, I kicked up a massive fuss and fought with her. That evening when mom was away at work, I went to the textile shop all by myself in an auto-rickshaw. I still remember, it was a maroon coloured Ghagra choli and I wanted some more of the same coloured cloth. The lady in the shop showed me so many variations of maroon colour and asked which maroon shade I wanted. Sadly, I realised that I hadn’t brought the dress with me to buy the exact maroon shade I needed. Never mind, I was a teenager, I knew everything, and I had the same maroon in my mind! So, I didn’t wait for anything, just bought the maroon material and came back home.
When I reached home, mom had returned from work, and she was waiting to question me.
Furious, I told her that I had bought the cloth all alone since I knew she wouldn’t do it for me. Then mom asked me if she could see the fabric and the dress to confirm that the colour was the same. Proudly, I took out the cloth I bought and the dress. God, the colours didn’t match!!! What should I do now?!! I felt miserable.
But what happened next was even more painful.
My mom took out a cover and handed it to me., I was almost in tears when I opened it because it had the same coloured cloth I needed for my dress. She had gone to buy it on her way back from work. Did I ever think that this would happen? How could I? I was so naïve, and my mom was so thoughtful! Wanting to hug my mom and say sorry, I wanted to stop fighting with her after this incident. But did it happen?
In my mind, I might have apologised a million times, but my ego never allowed me to tell mom that I was wrong and I did not know a thing!
I completed college, found a job, got married and had kids.
Travelling along the same roads as her, I got to know her better. I met with her struggles and faced her challenges. Then, someday, somewhere, without me or her knowing, I realised that her love towards me was the purest I ever received! No wonder, for my relationship with her was nine months ahead of everyone else!
The YouTube video stopped playing.
I was awake! I heard the creaky noise of the door opening. It was my daughter going to the kitchen to get something to eat. She didn’t bother to see what I was doing. Did it hurt? No, I am a mom, and moms never give up on kids. I blessed her in my mind and wished that she would grow up to be a brave and graceful woman and a mom who never gives up on her kids!
Do you recollect your childhood experiences and reapply your parents' parenting approaches in your family? Or do you think your kids need a totally different approach?
This is an original guest post written for World Moms Network by Rohini Pillai in Oman.
Rohini Pillai was born and raised in Kerala, God’s own country, the southern state of India. She considers her trust in God and her family as the biggest strengths of her life. She loves to be around people, and if not, you will most likely find her around her sweet brown and white Shitzu, Polo.
Life in the Weeds
When I was a new mother and both of my kids were “littles” (under the age of 5), I spent a lot of time chasing them around, picking up after them and carting them to copious kiddie activities. My mother-in-law liked to refer to that phase of parenting as being “deep in the weeds.” What I understood her analogy to mean was that life with pre-elementary-school-aged kids is like working in a garden perpetually choked by weeds, no matter how much you want to enjoy the flowers, there are always weeds slowing things down.
A friend interprets this same idiom as a golf reference: when you hit a ball into the rough (weeds) and it takes a lot longer to get back onto the fairway and into the good part of the game.
And yet another friend believes this idiom refers to fishing and how always casting out into the weeds, where you have to struggle to free your hook and make a catch,
Regardless of whether you interpret this saying in reference to gardening, fishing or playing golf, being in the weeds is a tough place to find yourself and it slows you down. The phrase has stuck with us through the years and my husband and I use it still when describing the life stages of friends and family.
They don’t go away, they just get taller
At the other end of the spectrum, once my youngest entered kindergarten and I suddenly had loads of productive time on my hands, my mother-in-law congratulated me for getting “out of the weeds.” And I thought that was the extent of it, that the next phases of parenthood might bring their own ups and downs, highs and lows but that the toughest part was behind me…boy was I WRONG!
Now that my kids are teenagers, they need me in different ways. The demands have gone from being physical to intellectual. My pockets of productive time still exist but the times and ways they need me now are much more intense. They no longer need me to sort their LEGO, or chaperone their bubble baths; now they need me to help tend their academic orchards, nurture their emotional gardens and pull weeds out of their social flower beds.
Before, tears were over spilled juice or a skinned knee; now they’re over spilled gossip and broken hearts.
Your garden doesn’t have to be perfect
The saying also goes: “the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence,” but sometimes when you get to the other side, you realize how good you had it where you were.
When my kids were younger and needed more of my constant attention, I envied parents with older kids, who could let them bike to friend’s houses on their own, set up their own social calendars and manage their school work. I couldn’t wait for the day my kids would be independent enough not to need me for such tasks.
But now my kids manage their entire lives online, out of parental view and input. Sometimes I don’t even know the names of all of the kids in their classes. They take the train to social engagements and address their own academic hardships with their teachers on Teams.
I witness my younger siblings raising their own littles, being thick in their own weeds and I ENVY them. I miss being needed in simple and manageable ways. Being required to do things I was capable of doing and the sense of accomplishment I got from tedious but rewarding tasks like making homemade Valentine’s cards.
What I’ve learned: Don’t fight the weeds, struggle makes us stronger. No matter what stage your kids are in, the most important task as a parent is to nurture the garden, regardless of the growing season.
We are living in strange times. Here’s how strange they are: the other day I found myself nodding in agreement with something that Dick Cheney said. He is one of the few Republicans who spoke out immediately against Trump’s executive order banning Muslims entering the United States. (Of course in the same interview, he talked about how there was “nobody in America” when his Puritan ancestors arrived. I guess some things never change.) I’ve also started following Pope Francis on Instagram. The Pope gives good Insta, I have to say, but the thing is, I’m not Catholic. I’m not even a lapsed Catholic. I’m not even religious. The closest I came to a religious moment is when I was about seven and was a horse in the St. Augustine “Noah’s Ark” pageant. I pranced down the aisle with the other “animals” and then we all huddled around the altar while Father Pemble—the hippy minister with a fabulous baritone and a red beard—sang songs about the flood. A religious high-point, for sure.
I don’t agree with the Pope on some key issues—he’s not going to be espousing any pro-choice rhetoric anytime soon—but his messages speak to the importance of caring for all of humanity, not just those who look like you.
Here’s an even stranger thing: for the first time in my adult life, I wished this weekend that I had become a lawyer. Because if I’d been a lawyer, and if I were in the United States, I could have gone to an airport and offered my services to detainee families as they (as we all) struggle with the implications of Trump’s destructive (and illegal) actions. I even suggested to my sixteen-year old son that he might think about becoming a lawyer — an idea that wouldn’t ever have occurred to me a month ago. Watching from afar as US airports flooded with people offering support of all kinds to detainees and their families—legal advice, places to stay, food, whatever they could find—I felt a tiny glimmer of hope. The Women’s Marches were amazing, a tour-de-force of activism, energy, and global feminism, but somehow the airport protests seem like an even bigger deal, because they were spontaneous, contagious, and effective (can we get a shoutout for the ACLU)? As the wonderful Dahlia Lithwick wrote in Slate, “Donald Trump has no idea how terrifying a blue book and a Lexis password can be. He’s about to find out.”
The protests have also helped me to show my kids that all is not lost (for a little while longer at least): the country still has the rule of law, which the President has to obey. I’ve been pointing to the photos of lawyers sitting on airport floors, laptops open, as signs that individuals can make a difference and that Trump’s message of fear has not taken hold everywhere.
That’s the thing, isn’t it? How do we explain Trump’s actions to our children when what he’s doing violates such fundamental principles of civility? And how do we keep our children, particularly older children, optimistic about the future when around the world things seem so bleak? My sixteen-year old son is full of the existential despair that only a teen-ager can feel. He says things like, “yeah, I’m doing my homework, not that it matters because…Trump” – which might become the 2017 version of “the dog ate my homework.” Like most teenagers, my son is a pretty rigid thinker: things are one way or another, the best or the worst; he has lots of opinions and they are, of course, always correct. The night after Trump’s victory (a landslide, as Trump keeps telling us), The Teen said, “but mom, I thought the good guys were supposed to win.” He looked so sad and confused, and I could almost hear the screeching gears in his mind trying to recalibrate his world view.
The Teen has only known Presidential elections where Obama won, and although he knows theoretically that “good guys” don’t always win, this election is his first real-life whammy of watching the good guys lose. It happens to all of us eventually, and sadly, we may even come to expect it. But right now, the Teen is sure that we’re all doomed. I’ve had my fair share of similar thoughts since the inauguration (did you see those “huge” crowds on the Mall for the swearing-in? Yeah, me neither), but I don’t want my kids to feel as pessimistic as I do. They’re young, right? If they lose hope, then that’s the end of the game.
Surprisingly—or perhaps not surprisingly, given how odd things are these days—I found some advice on the Pope’s Instagram. The day the Muslim ban went into effect, the PopeFeed featured a picture with the caption: “Dear young people, make a ruckus! A ruckus that brings a free heart, solidarity, hope…” You know what? I’m thinking ruckus sounds just about right. Perhaps that’s the final thing: I’m actually telling my kids to make a ruckus. Ask questions, read the news, read history, pay attention. And vote. The sixteen-year old will vote for a President in 2020. I wonder who she’ll be?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Deborah Quinn, Mannahattamamma of the UAE.
Lead photo credit: Kenneth Lu / Flickr. Pope Francis video via the Pope’s Instagram.
My husband is a New Yorker whose theatergoing parents always planned their theater outings well in advance. He’s adopted this same long-range planning attitude, and that’s how we ended up with tickets to “the Harry Potter play” this past September. In a fit of jet-lag , he’d bought tickets the previous November during an airport layover en route to Abu Dhabi.
Using our airline miles, we flew to London in September, during the Eid holidays, to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. We took our children, of course, which meant that it wasn’t a vacation but a family trip. Although you might want to think that these are synonyms, they’re really not. If you’re on vacation, you’re never forced to whisper-yell at someone to put down his phone and pay attention when he’s going through security, or explain (for the umpteenth time) that we didn’t fly all the way to London just to hang out in the Jack Wills store.
Those of you with small children or infants might think that traveling with older children looks easy. Their gear tends to be smaller and there’s that whole “go to the bathroom on their own” thing, which is pretty great. But with a small child, there is always the chance that she will fall asleep in her stroller, a cracker crushed in her pudgy fist, and then you can proceed to stroll in the park, or walk through a gallery without much whinging. Older children whinge; they have opinions and needs.
Other people’s children whinge, that is. My family travels in an entirely whinge-free zone. No whinging here, nope, nothing to see here, move along.
Wrapped in our whinge-free bubble, we went off to the play, about which I can say nothing. I’m pretty much sworn to secrecy about the play’s magic, other than to say that all the effects were accomplished through stagecraft. There weren’t any digital effects or computer-aided sorcery, which in this day and age is rather a marvel, all by itself. The plot was… well, you may have already read the book (which is the script of the play), so you know the plot. It’s the standard Rowling combination of magic and family, with the emphasis on family.
There is one key plot point that sets the play apart: Harry Potter is forty. He works for the Ministry of Magic and has discovered, as so many of us do, that life as an adult isn’t as much fun as we thought it would be. Harry longs to continue dashing around in an invisibility cloak, but there are reports to write and files to go through—all the joys of adult work. He’s chafing a bit, is our Harry. Ron even jokes that Harry’s scar aches not because of any Voldemort-related reason but because of middle age. Everything aches a bit these days, he points out.
When the play starts, Harry and his family are standing on platform 9 ¾, and Harry’s elder sons, James and Albus, are bickering so violently that Harry whisper-yells at them to “behave!” Can I tell you how heartening it is to see that even Harry Potter’s children misbehave in public?
At its heart, the Harry Potter series is about a child wondering about his parents. The play flips the tables: now it’s a parent wondering about his children. Harry’s son Albus feels the weight of being the son of “the boy who lived” and, as is the case with most teenagers, Albus doesn’t always handle his feelings gracefully. Of course, as is the case with most parents, Harry doesn’t always handle his feelings gracefully, either.
In an effort to keep Albus safe, Harry imposes more and more rules, which have precisely the opposite effect. As I watched Harry struggle with Albus, I winced in recognition. Lately it seems that in my efforts to connect with my almost sixteen-year old son, I inevitably say the wrong thing at the wrong time and before you know it, one of us is yelling. (And of course, the fault is always mine. My son makes that abundantly clear.)
Harry’s questions remind me of my own: how do I keep my teenager safe and, at the same time, let him grow and develop in his own way, even if that means letting him take risks and (occasionally) be really quite an idiot? When my children were toddlers, I wished someone would invent a kind of bubble wrap suit that I could wrap around them to prevent bruising, and now that my children are older, I wish there were emotional bubble wrap that would prevent the inevitable heartache that comes with growing up. If only Jack Wills made such a thing.
As Harry and Albus slowly find their way back to one another after the emotional battles that wound them both, they learn to accept one another’s imperfections. The lesson of the Harry Potter play highlights the fact that we don’t need to be perfect to be loved—and therein lies the real magic.
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Deborah Quinn, Mannahattamamma of the UAE. Photo credit to the author.