I had a conversation with my sister and some friends the other night while playing euchre (pardon, while slaying her at euchre). She’d decided to pull her 2 year old from gymnastics for various reasons that made sense, and was so upset with herself for not being able to make it work. When I asked why she was so upset (Olivia is 2, she’s not going to the Olympics next year), she said it was mostly because Olivia is so disappointed when Paige (older sister) gets to go and she can’t participate too.
That is something I understand — boy do I. Every time Parker goes to school, or to summer camp, Lucas stands by the door crying that he wants to go to school too. Every day he would watch Parker get ready to go have adventures and he’d come with me to pick him up and see the classrooms filled with exciting stuff and other kids, and want to run into those classes. Listening to your child sob because he doesn’t get to do something, day after day, is agonizing.
But the thing is that life is full of disappointments.
It’s a lesson he has to learn, and although it’s hard, and he’s so young, I don’t think that he’s too young to know what it feels like. More importantly, I think it’s vital that he learns that he can withstand disappointments. To sooth himself. So that when he’s older, he can find ways to work around those feelings; find something else to do that will make him feel better or an alternate solution to getting what he wants. Re-evaluating what he wants.
I see people all the time, including myself, going miles out of the way to avoid disappointments. No one wants to feel that sting, but more, so often we don’t trust that we can handle some of them; that they will be too much.
I talk myself out of writing so often because it seems like too much effort for something that will end in disappointment — that negative feedback my internal voice whispers insidiously, quietly. I’ll never be published, I tell myself. It doesn’t matter in the end.
The truth is, I think I talk myself down from reaching not because it might not happen, but because I’m afraid of what more and more disappointment would feel like. It’s better to dream of being a writer, and to dabble and play, than to commit to something that might just hurt when it doesn’t happen.
There are so many stock things I could say in response to my own problems here. You’ll never succeed if you don’t try. It’s the journey that counts. No one gets to tell you what you are, you get to decide. You’re still a writer, regardless.
All of those are true, but that’s not the point, and honestly, some words are so easy — they slip out and masquerade as a solution or a panacea but don’t really do much of anything to help.
The things we dream about mostly don’t turn out quite the way we fantasized they would. Maybe they’re better or richer or not quite in realization. Sometimes the things we dream about or want don’t turn out at all, and we have to figure out a different way.
I think that’s my key, really. It will only happen if I try. If I want it badly enough — enough to put myself on the line — then it might very well hurt if it doesn’t happen. But I think that the disappointment of knowing I didn’t try, or that I gave up before I really began — would hurt so much more.
With my children, I know I have to withstand the pain of watching them be disappointed sometimes, because I know it will help make them more capable and strong and well rounded as adults. Lucas will get to go to school one day; he’ll have the adventures and friends. For now, I hope he learns to cheer himself up or distract himself. Lately, he turns from the door and cheers up instantly with the phrase Play-Doh please Mommy?
Maybe it will happen, and maybe it won’t. But maybe for now, rather than breaking out tea leaves to read a future filled with disappointment, I should keep trying, and stock up on some Play-Doh.