As parents, we are faced with a profound degree of responsibility when it comes to raising our kids. For the most part, we are constantly trying to teach them to be kind, respectful, obedient and law-abiding little humans. There is not a single day that goes by where we are not trying to teach them something or “train them” to handle situations better. All in the hope that when they finally leave us, they will know how to be awesome young adults, without us having to tell them or remind them of their place in the world. 🙂
But what about teaching our kids about how to handle hurt and disappointment? What about the many life lessons awaiting them that will bring with them heartache and rejection? Where are the books that tell us how to mend our children’s broken hearts when they realise that people are not always kind and life does not always work out the way we hope it will? How do we guide them through the lows and, the many heartbreaks they are going to face? Guys, I don’t want my kids to have their hearts broken.
I guess what I’m really trying to say is that is that for the better half of my parenting journey my focus has been on teaching my kids the fundamental laws of common sense, what is acceptable and what is not (in the many situations they find themselves in) and how to live a life that promotes kindness and respect for the world and the people in it.
So not much could have prepared me for the outburst of sadness that ensued in our home on Sunday night. As I was tucking Brody into bed he broke down as he explained to me how for weeks he has felt like everybody hates him. He, almost reluctantly, opened up and told me how nobody wants to play with him at school anymore and that some children had said some nasty things to him. I saw him sob in front of me and for a moment all I could do was listen and look at my precious (and naive) 5-year-old son sitting in front of me and wonder: How do I tell this little boy that life is hard and, that it will get harder? How do I equip him with the tools to deal with these emotions and feelings of hurt appropriately and make him understand that life isn’t always fair and that sometimes we get hurt, even by the people we love the most?
My hardest part was obviously trying to remain level-headed and not let my own emotions effect how I guided him through this emotional bump in the road. All I wanted to do was scream “How could anybody hate you? That’s simply impossible? How could someone call you ugly when you are the most beautiful little boy I have ever laid my eyes on? How can nobody want to play with you? You are so fun to play with!’ I had to put my feelings aside and understand that he wasn’t looking for my validation here, he was looking for his friend’s, his peers.
He wasn’t needing to know that I loved him, he knew that. He needed to know his friends valued him and found him fun and interesting and that he was someone’s favorite. Not only mine. Don’t get me wrong, it made me also ask myself: “When the heck did he start needing other people’s validation more than my own? When did he start to care more about what other people thought than his own mama?” Gone are the days where all that really mattered was that mommy saw him as the apple of her eye. I love that he’s old enough to find a healthy sense of value in this, but couldn’t it be as simple as him only caring what I thought of him? Because if he saw himself the way I see him, would he ever feel anything less than perfect and beautiful?
So after letting him talk me through it, I broached the subject head on. I told him that people can be unkind. That just like he can sometimes be nasty and rude, so will others. I told him that it was okay to feel the way he was feeling and that he had every right to feel heart sore. I told him that as he gets older he will understand more about why people sometimes say hurtful things and that if we try, we will always be able to work through them. I told him that nothing his friends had said to him was true and that sometimes children (especially girls) can use their words to make themselves feel better. I told him he was beautiful, unique and created by a God that makes no mistakes and that his friend who told him he was ugly was maybe having a bad day. I told him that people all make mistakes.
I then used it as an opportunity to explain to him why it’s so important for him to be kind and that he must remember this next time he feels tempted to be mean-spirited or hurtful. I explained to him how God has given us our tongues to speak kindly to one another and if we are ever tempted to be unkind, we should stop and think how that would make the other person feel.
I love that I’m really good friends with his friend’s mom and so talking to her about this situation was easy and well received. Within 12 hours, Brody had received a voice note from his friend telling him how sorry she was and that she still loved him and wanted desperately to be friends. Guys, if I told you he listened to this voice note all day yesterday, I would not be exaggerating! He made everybody listen to it, including Hunter, out neighbors and the delivery guy! Seeing how much confidence was restored hearing her sweet little voice tell him she still cared was too precious. It made my heart happy, but a little bit sad. Seeing how much he relied on her for feelings of validation and acceptance was beautiful yet so tragic at the same time.
He went to school with a bounce in his step this morning knowing his favorite friend still loved him. And I’m so grateful that he got through this little bump relatively unscathed. But what about all the disappointments and let downs he is going to face in the future? When he doesn’t make the rugby team, when his best friend steals his girlfriend in high school or when his first serious girlfriend breaks up with him in college? Or when he doesn’t get that scholarship or job promotion.
And let’s be honest, the same conversations just ain’t gonna fly, because if he already doesn’t care too much about what I think now can you even imagine how it’s going to be when he’s older!?
I guess we all wish we could wrap them in cotton wool and protect them from life’s adversities but that wouldn’t really be doing them any favors would it? I think it’s all part of life and there are some great lessons to be learned through the trials we face as we navigate this messy beautiful life. I guess all we can do is pray that we are enough in times of trouble and that they will always know that we are here for them and loved more deeply than they will ever know.