Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Popped Balloons

As a parent, I believe it's a natural instinct to want to fix problems.  At least it is for me.  Even after three kids, I jump up when one of them falls down.  I hate to hear them cry.  It actually feels like someone is squeezing my heart.  Like it will just shrivel and dissolve in my chest.  It doesn't even matter if they're crying because they're bratty.  And believe me, I can recognize bratty.  The problem is that they are genuinely hurting, no matter the reason - even a bratty one, and that hurts me.

I have to make a conscious effort to not fix things for my kids.  To not do everything for my kids.  Ideally, my kids stay where they are forever and ever, never grow up, and never leave home.  Ideally.

Realistically, they grow up and need to be functioning, independent, reliant, adults.  They leave us and start their own lives.  That's the way of the world, right?  As much as we'd like to shelter and protect and fix...eventually, we won't be here.  It is natural that a child leaves his/her parent to start his/her own family.  It is natural that I will leave this world before my children.  So as much as I want to take care of them now, I need to know that at that time, they will be okay.

I am not a stranger to disappointment.  This is not an "oh poor me" statement.  It is a fact.  I was shown how to be independent and self reliant.  My parents didn't do everything, they didn't fix everything.  I actually think these things go hand in hand.  If you're never disappointed, you never learn to fix/adjust, you are forever dependent on someone.  I think it's just the way my generation was raised.  And the generation before that and before that and before that...

Until now.

The other day, Ainsley went to a birthday party.  She was particularly tired.  It's been a crazy summer.  Different activities every week.  Late nights.  Full weekends.  She got a balloon as she left.  It popped the moment we walked outside and she dropped it to the ground.  She burst into tears.  I literally took two steps towards the door to get another.  I stopped.  I knelt down and said "Ainsley, balloons pop.  It's a fact of life.  I'm sorry you're sad, but it's the way it is.  Let's go."

She nodded and cried a bit more, but was over it by the time we were driving away.  So is it natural that my immediate response was to fix the problem?  A very silly problem.  A problem that wasn't actually a problem at all.  The less balloons in my house, the better.  Was it natural because I'm a mother and I don't like to see my child upset?  Or was it natural because every where we look these days a parent, a school, a teacher, a government, a leveling the playing field.  Telling everyone that you're all the same, and everything's fair, and everyone deserves anything they want.

You're not good at math?  Well of course you are, here let's make it easier.
Your closet's too small?  Okay, let me bust down this wall and make it bigger.
The other team won?  Oh no, that's not more scoring.
You're offended by the word bossy?  Well, that word no longer exists.
Someone teased you?  BULLY!!!!!!! SUSPEND HIM! LOCK HIM UP!

As much as it hurts me to see them hurt, I want my kids to lose.  I want someone to pick on them.  I want someone to break their hearts.  I want them to flunk tests.  I want them to get rejected from a school/job/team/audition.  Because if none of that ever happens, and they go through life with everything being easy and handed to them, then aren't those good things lessened?  Why is winning awesome?  Because you know what it feels like to lose.  Why can friends be lifesavers?  Because you know what it feels like to be lonely.  Why is falling in love and getting married and having babies the best thing that can happen to a person?  Because a broken heart sucks.

You can't have joy without sorrow.  Happiness can not exist without sadness.  That feeling you get when you laugh so hard you can't breath, the one where the rumble of laughter consumes your whole chest and belly.  You can't have that if you haven't also been overtaken with breathless tears.

I want my kids to love what they earn.  To be proud of themselves for an accomplishment.  And I want it to be their accomplishment.  Not mine.  If it's me handing them the toys and cars and clothes, if it's me working the math problems and writing the papers, if it's me picking up their dirty clothes and putting away toys - without any effort on their part - they'll never understand that feeling.  You know the one.  That feeling that makes you beam.  That feeling that you, just you, actually did something that was hard and challenging.  Sure it might suck in the now.  It might be the hardest thing to get through.  But that feeling when you get the reward, nothing beats that.  And to deprive my children of that?  That would make me a really bad parent.
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