My Kindergartner has strep throat, and it's wreaking havoc with my third-grader's social life. She was supposed to have a playdate yesterday and her very first sleepover tonight, but everything had to be postponed because we are once again the House of Infectious Disease. No mom in her right mind would allow her child to come over and breathe the air here. I was fully prepared with a firm lecture entitled "Just Get Over Yourself; The World is Not Going to End Because Your Plans Changed!" But alas, my preparation was all for nothing. When I told her that we'd have to put the sleepover off a few days or maybe a week, she said, "Well, I hope we can do it soon!"
Now, I tell this little story not to brag (well, maybe a little bit, because she was so sweet and agreeable that it MUST somehow reflect just a little on my parenting skills, right?) but more to illustrate that this is a kid who has been trained in the little-used and often-overlooked parenting philosophy of "Get Over It". I'm pretty sure that our grandmothers and mothers used this one, even if they called it something else. I don't remember being allowed to whine about anything (although that could be because my mom had 4 kids very close in age and probably ignored most of what we said.) In second grade, when it rained on my best friend's birthday and the Disneyland trip was re-routed to the skating rink, no one cried. We just skated. Nicola's mom told us, "Hey, we can have THIS party or NO party!" so we all got onboard pretty fast. When we left the cake out and the dog ate part of it, her mom cut off the gross part, served from the kitchen, and no one cried. We just ate cake. "You can eat the cake or you can cry about it, but you can't do both," she said, and let's face it - we wanted cake.
My younger daughter has food allergies, so if a classmate brings cupcakes to school, she can't have one. Well-meaning (but clueless) people say, "But I feel so BAD for her!" To which I answer, "Why? So she can't eat a cupcake. Big deal." She doesn't get upset when other kids eat things she can't. It's a cupcake, people. She'll be fine. She's over it. She's has these allergies her whole little life. Slacker Mom here doesn't even send "alternate" snacks to school for her on the off chance that another student brings a birthday treat on that particular day. Her world will not end because she didn't eat a little sugar with the other five-year-olds.
Resilience, my dad would call it, the ability to just get on with life and recognize that disappointments and setbacks are minor and temporary and not that big a deal. But I see so many kids who can't handle disappointment that I've got to wonder: Do parents teach resilience? I think too many parents allow their kids to behave as if every little thing that doesn't go their way is a tragedy. Dropped your popsicle because you were running around like a spaz, smacking other kids with it? It's OK, I'll buy you another one! Didn't get the teacher you want? THE HORROR! Didn't get invited to a neighbor's party? OH NO! Let's call and berate them! Or better yet, have an even BETTER party! With ponies! And ice sculptures! And let's NOT invite them!
When one of my kids faces a disappointment, my husband tells them, "Pick yourself up, shake yourself off, put it behind you, you'll get 'em next time!" And it works. From skinned knees to basketball losses to getting "only" a supporting role in the school play, they've faced their little setbacks. But it's not a tragedy. Not to minimize their feelings, but at some point, they've got to get over it. My college roommate (whose leg was nearly severed by a boat propellor when we were 19, so if anyone deserved to wallow in self-pity, she did) used to say, "Acknowledge and move on." Meaning, yes, things happen, it sucks, so deal with it and then get on with your life. Stuff happens, but life goes on. You can go along, too, or you can sit and cry in your soup. Pick one.
Try as we might, we can't protect our kids from every little slight and snub. Nor should we! Kids need to cope with loss, disappointment, heartache, and emotional pain. If we let them go their entire childhoods without experiencing these things, what happens once we aren't around to make every little thing better? I'm all for holding their hands and drying their tears and acknowledging that yes, it was painful, yes, it was awful, and yes, it will take some time to feel better. And, most importantly, Mom will always be here to talk about it and help you through it. But you WILL get over it, you WILL feel better, and you WILL move forward.
Right now, their disappointments are more of the "my sister got a bigger piece of cake than I did" or "if SHE gets new shoes I want some too" variety. But some day, some boy is going to break my daughter's heart. Some day, she's going to get a truly awful teacher who just doesn't care that she had a hard time with the assignment. Some day, a friend will hurt her feelings, her dog will die, she'll not get invited to a dance. But she'll know that even if IT's not OK, SHE'LL be OK. She's resilient.
Slacker Mom Says...life is full of disappointments. When we shield our kids from that fact, we don't teach resilience. There's nothing wrong with a well-placed "get over it" from time to time. It's not that we don't care; it's that we DO care, enough to teach them that LIFE WILL NOT END if you don't get to do what you want to do every second of every day. Stuff happens. The dog will steal your ice cream cone. Someone will fail to invite you to a party. You may even get the smaller piece. Of your favorite cake. On your own birthday. Jeez. Get over it.