If you are the parent of very small children, you have probably been told that things get easier. People like to say this to other people who have not slept in ten days. They say it because you look so sad, and so tired, and so confused. They say it because they fear what will happen to you if you don’t have something to hope for.
You are going to have a school-aged child someday, this is true. And then you’ll remember that you were told that it would be easier by now. But you will realize it was all a lie when you are rubbing your school-aged child’s back because someone made fun of his glasses, or told her about ‘The Birds and The Bees’ before you got around to it, or decided it was his turn to not get invited to the playdate that EVERYONE is invited to.
To me, the age of Very Best Friendships has been the most heart wrenching stage of all. Oh sure, toilet training has its ups and downs. Mostly downs, really, until the trainee is really invested in the sticker/gummy bear/cash prize. And yeah, I felt the shame of the mid-aisle tantrum in Soriana. But there is nothing that matches the pain of seeing your child freshly rejected by his/her bestie for someone else with a cooler video game system.
I often hear the saying about motherhood being about your heart walking outside your body. For me, it’s more like my beating heart on a plate with a dagger beside it and a note attached that reads “Be Gentle”. The hunting/gathering instinct seems to have dulled somewhat over time. However, I think the maternal instinct has remained firmly intact since there’s been life on this planet. Sure, we are aren’t pushing our babies behind us while whacking saber tooth tigers with a club, but don’t mess with a mother whose child is being bullied on the basketball court by the Popular Kid.
Here’s the tricky part: The maternal instinct is strong because it is necessary. We are the first responders for our children when they need us. If we aren’t on their side, who will be? But there’s a fine line between being in our children’s corner and being in our children’s way. And there’s an equally fine line between letting them learn and letting them down.
Social problems are normal. If they don’t happen, they won’t learn how to deal with rejection, or conflict, or any of the other of the heinous things that happen to us as adults. Also, unfortunately, children learn how to be decent human beings by practicing with other children, which sometimes involves being a not-so-decent human being first.
So if your child sobs into your lap after school because they are being ostracized and they don’t know why, you can be assured (once the adrenaline has cleared your system) that there is much for them to learn. But they don’t have to learn it alone. That’s why they have us tall folk in their lives.
We are raising kids in a time when emotional trauma is just one click away. They don’t even have to be physically present to be crushed, it’s that convenient. Our instinct to protect our offspring is not going to be erased from the gene pool anytime soon.
If you would like to know more about raising resilient children, stay tuned for part two, coming up next week!