A friend recently told me that her new response to hearing
terrible news—you know the stuff, the sort of thing that makes you cringe,
makes you count your blessings—was to look the other person in the eye and say, "That sucks."
I furrowed my brow. Seems a little harsh, doesn't it? A
little to the point, wasn't it? Doesn't a person who just suffered something
huge, something devastating, need a little TLC instead?
But Jessica's point was this: sometimes, the only way to
respond to something is to acknowledge how rough it is. We're getting to the
age where our friends' parents are dying, where people we know are being
diagnosed with horrible illnesses, where people are losing their jobs, their
homes. And you know what? It sucks.
It really does suck.
I thought about this message when dealing with my kids.
Sometimes, I'm so quick to tell my kids not to cry or that plans change, that's
just the way it is, and so on that I haven't properly validated their feelings. I haven't
taken the time to show them that I see it from their perspective. I get it, it
Jess was right. And I was going to slow down and take that
extra beat. The one where I didn't go from A to B. The one where I
acknowledged there was a step between. I didn't have to move right into encouraging them to get
over it, to move on. I could take a breath and be present with the kids. Tell
them that I understood their frustrations.
I took Jess's advice and I made it my own. I would take the
adult version—that sucks—and use a gentler version with the tots: that stinks.
So, when a playdate got canceled because his friend was
sick? I didn't just segue into what we were doing that day instead, desperately
trying to avoid the tears. I acknowledged how much of a bummer the situation was.
I told my son that I got why he was so upset—we had a plan. A fun plan! A
totally awesome plan that we'd been looking forward to for days. And it got
And once he
knew that I got how upset he was, we were able to move on.
If there are tears? That's OK. Part of my job as a mom is
to teach my kid how to deal with disappointment. And sometimes that means
having a good cry before you can move on. Sometimes we need to acknowledge the
hurt and frustration, really feel it, and get it out of our systems. Because
life isn't always going to give you exactly what you want. As parents, we
need to teach our kids how to deal with that.
These days, I try to validate my kids' feelings,
expressing that "I get it" when
something's really bad. And that I'm bummed about it, too. I want them to
understand that it's OK to be upset, or angry, or just plain pissed off, but
we acknowledge those feelings, and then (and only then) can we move on.