My nearly 5 years of being a mom has definitely been filled with its ups and downs. While I am thankful that I’ve experienced more ups, the downs tend to linger longer. Generally, the downs are all the normal stresses of parenthood – sleepless nights, potty accidents, and attitudes that give just a mere glimpse of what teenage life will probably be like.
The worst type of down moment, however, is when you feel totally helpless as a parent. You know, those moments where you want to do nothing but scoop your babies up and protect them from everything that can hurt them in the world, but you know you can’t. The moments that catch you off-guard and you don’t know what to say to make your child feel better. Those are the biggest downs for me. Those moments, more than anything, make me feel like I’m failing as a parent.
When we were driving home from summer camp one day, I noticed my almost 5yo daughter seemed upset. She wasn’t telling me a story about her day or singing her favorite songs, as she normally does – hell, she wasn’t even fighting with her brother. When I asked her what was wrong, I fully expected her to tell me she dropped her toy or wished she was still at school playing with her friends. Instead, her eyes teared up and she told me that none of her friends wanted to play with her that day.
This isn’t the first time she mentioned something like this to me. As much as I know she loves her classmates and her teachers, I also know that this past year of Pre-K 4, has been a tough transitional year. Throughout the year there have been some issues with clickiness and even a couple of small “mean girl” moments – my daughter also guilty of these at times. Even though I know all of this and knew that she would go to school the next day and have a blast with her friends, I was heartbroken for her and left speechless.
I stared at her before choosing my words carefully. I asked her if she asked anyone to play with her, to which she replied that she did and her friends said no. My mind was racing. She was looking to me for comfort and I didn’t know what to say to her. I felt sad for her. I wanted to tell her that I know how she feels. That I’ve been through this myself. That kids aren’t always going to want to play with her – including her best friends. That friendship can be just as painful as love? How do I tell a 4yo that not everyone is going to like you – and that despite it all she will be ok. That moments like this do not define her – she will remain the fabulous, smart, and amazing person that she is no matter what. Maybe this lesson doesn’t necessarily pertain to this exact moment, yet ,I can’t help but spiral.
I wish I could have reached back and wrapped my arms around her to hold her tight and make sure she knows she is loved. I explained to her that while it was a bummer and didn’t feel good, things would be ok. I also told her that if kids are being mean to her or she is feeling left out that it’s ok to tell a teacher. She shouldn’t feel bad about speaking up. I started to mention that soon she’ll have new friends at her new school, but as I was saying these words I realized they weren’t the right words. She didn’t care about her new school, she’s only 4. She’s thinking about what happened that day.
Her long face remained for a few more moments before my husband changed the subject. For me that exchange has lingered on in my brain. It pains me to think about how this is only the beginning of me not knowing how to comfort my baby girl. I know she probably hasn’t even thought about that day since, but I can’t stop thinking about it. I can’t stop thinking about what the future holds for her.
I would love to hear from your own experiences in dealing with emotional growing pains in the comments. How do you/would you deal with a situation like this? What has been the hardest moment in parenthood for you so far?