So you decide to have a kid or two, and you have a kid or two, and you raise a kid or two.
And along the way, the normal things happen: developmental milestones, bumps and bruises, temper tantrums, good grades, friendships found, friendships lost, surprising sneaky behavior, surprising wonderful behavior. And you realize, over and over, that you are merely along for the ride of parenthood, rather than the operator of the vehicle.
With each new phase, you experience challenges new to you, but tales as old as time for those who went so boldly before you. You say, “I’m nothing more than a limo driver,” thinking you are the originator of this thought, and you receive instant nodding, knowing looks from your predecessors. And you are humbled, once again.
But still, when your child experiences disappointment, it is a most unusual feeling, almost an out-of-body experience. And it appears as though the residual feelings last longer with the parent than with the child.
First, physical sensations: prickly tears, churning stomach, jangled nerves, all of which must be controlled so that you can comfort the one who is actually experiencing the disappointment, your child. Not you, your child. Buck up, ninny, and do your job.
Then, the mental obsession: How dare this disappointing thing happen to my child. Doesn’t everyone know how special my child is/how hard my child tries/how much better my child would be if this disappointment hadn’t happened? Why doesn’t anyone (everyone) care?
Quickly enough, the pointing finger does a u-turn: Surely there are things you could have done, should have done, to prevent this disappointment in the first place? Surely you could have instructed your child better, played a better social game with the people in your child’s world, insisted that your child prepare herself better to prevent the disappointment?
Next, residual issues: the physical and mental affect you enough to deal inappropriately with the people around you. You pick fights with your husband, you snap at the other child, you are disappointed with the behavior of your dog.
Still, you reason, disappointment happens, and therefore your next most important task in life is to do and say the next right thing with respect to your disappointed child. You carefully consider your conversational options, you write uplifting texts for her to read, and you anxiously await the next time you see her to gauge her feelings and give the most correct, most sage, most transformative speech that will be the turning point in your child’s despair.
And she comes home, and she is fine. In fact, did something disappointing even happen? No, she has no updates or news, she hadn’t thought much about it, to tell the truth. And she grabs a snack and breezes up to her room, to find the next drama upon which to focus.
This should be a happy ending, right? Then why doesn’t it feel like a happy ending? And how in the hell did this suddenly become about me?
Is there an appropriate filing cabinet for feelings of vicarious disappointment? Is there a manual written on how to recover from the disappointment you didn’t actually experience?
After an overdue heart-to-heart discussion with a long-term friend, I am sharing my blog with her for the first time today.
Posted on November 20, 2014, in Parenting, Self-Care and tagged dealing with disappointment, disappointmen, Health, Parenting, Recovery, self-development, Self-Help. Bookmark the permalink. 20 Comments.