I know that one of my jobs as a parent is to teach her how to deal with disappointment – but not like this; this isn’t what I had in mind.
We should be working on learning how to gracefully accept that she gets what she gets for dinner, and not necessarily a doughnut.
We should be working on accepting the fact that she’s not getting a pony for her birthday.
We should be working on understanding that all fun activities end eventually, and when the playdate is over, we need to gracefully go home.
Instead, we had to cancel our vacation last minute because I came down with influenza. She was so excited about our trip to Alaska, but I was far too sick to take her anywhere.
I sat down in her kid-sized green and white polka-dot easy chair and pulled her into my lap. “I have some bad news,” I said, “we can’t go to Alaska tomorrow because Mommy is sick.”
“No, no, no, no, no,” she repeated several times, and then she stopped. “It’s okay, Mommy. I know sometimes we can’t do things when you get sick.” She rested her head on my shoulder a bit, then ran out to the living room to play as if nothing had happened.
It hurts the way she has normalized my illnesses, Mommy being sick is just part of her life. Stupid cancer keeps messing with me, even when it’s not cancer.
Our 4-year-old asked for a pencil and paper. We were at my husband’s office visiting, and she developed an urgent need for writing implements. We handed them over, and Aaron and I continued our conversation – till we noticed she was writing something.
She was copying down the Arabic alphabet from a graph in the book. Her initiative, her drive, her curiosity, her thirst for knowledge and understanding never cease to amaze me.
Of course I took a picture.
Then when I went to post the picture on Instagram/Facebook, I hesitated.
There have been so many posts rolling around complaining about moms who do nothing but brag on their kid on their Facebook page. I thought about it again, and hesitated again.
Then I posted this on Facebook:
I know I post a lot about how awesome my kid is – and I know it can get annoying. Too bad. Every kid needs someone who pays attention, who notices what’s unique and amazing about them, who champions them. I wish every kid had that. So if you want to post on facebook about how awesome some kid is, some amazing thing they said or did, some spark of genius, or creativity, or compassion you noticed in a young person – rock on. The world needs more of that too.
It wasn’t till that post started generating some positive response, that I finally worked up the nerve and posted the picture about my daughter above.
But why did I hesitate in the first place?
Why do I place so much stock in the opinion of whiners?
On a logical level, I don’t give a crap what everyone else thinks – but there’s that little girl, deep down inside me still desperate for acceptance and approval. I grew up with an overwhelming fear of being obnoxious and annoying; it was one of my greatest fears, and it kept me isolated.
I have this idea of who I am, and who I think I should be. I think I should be someone who is not driven by fear, especially fear of the opinions of others.
Then I take a look at my behavior and it doesn’t always match.
I think my choices as a parent should be based on what will best help my daughter to grow into a strong and compassionate woman of integrity, but what I do is different. I watch myself making parenting choices based on what I think will negatively or positively impact my popularity. It takes me right back to Freshman locker banks at my high school – an anxiety ridden place, indeed.
This entire scenario reminded me of Ira Glass talking about how a creative person’s sense of taste develops before their skill, so there is this gap between what they think they should be doing and what they’re actually able to do.
That story was life-changing for me.
It’s not just about creativity
While Glass was being specific about creativity, I think his point carries over to many other aspects of our lives.
We have this vision of the world, we have this vision of what it means to be a good parent, a good person… We see how our own attitudes and behaviors play into that vision. We know we want to “be the change.”
But there is this gap.
You don’t just wake up one morning and decide to be different, better, and that’s it, done. It takes practice. Years of practice.
But life happens in the meantime. We are all living in the meantime – in the gap.
We don’t get practice time, and then go out and live our lives after we’ve perfected ourselves. We go out and try things, see if they work, we fall down, we get up, we embarrass ourselves, we don’t die of embarrassment – but we don’t get to practice life without an audience. And that audience usually has an opinion. It doesn’t matter.
Life is not about perfection. It’s about doing the best we can, and when we miss the mark, learning from it, course correcting, and moving on.
We need to remember to be gentle with ourselves, to remember that we’re living in the gap. To just keep trying.
And when someone else offends us, well, maybe they’re living in the gap, too.
So here I am, waxing on about wishing I could be as brave as I think I should be, and my little girl just wanted to practice writing new letters. I’m so proud of her, and I want the whole world to know it.
P.S. She calls the Arabic alphabet “letter parties.”
I’ve had a little practice with change management – those changes that are planned months and years in advance, those changes that come out of nowhere and leave you off balance with your head spinning, and those little gradual changes that sneak up on you, and one day you realize your baby is half your height, and has opinions that are very much all her own.
The best parts of my life came about through change, as did the worst. I’ve been thinking about my attraction/repulsion response to change – sometimes both sensations at the same time in regards to the same issue.
CoffeeJitters has been a single girl making her way in the world blog, a wedding blog, an infertility blog, a photography blog, a quitting my job and going back to school full time blog, a wow! I’m pregnant! blog, a mommy blog, a cancer blog, and a relearning how to dream after cancer blog.
I’m still trying to relearn how to dream after cancer. It’s surprising how much imagination and willpower it takes to re-imagine your future after this kind of diagnosis. But, now I’ve moved on a little, from dreaming to planning, and even doing. Baby steps, people.
This blog is my story, my life, and mostly, a very public love letter to my husband and daughter. If you’d like to read more, here are a few of my favorites to get you started: