My daughter arrived home full of excitement. The kind of excitement that has to be put down by the parent, as the unfortunate holder of reason and knowledge. My daughter had been invited over by a friend to run through the sprinklers at her house in swimsuits. Which I am all for. Except not when you have a cold, which my daughter has. And not when it's only in the 60's, which it is.
When I said no for the forty-fifth time, suddenly it dawned in my girl's able mind that no matter how many times she said "please" the consequential reaction was not going to be "Yes!" but "No." The End. At which point she burst into a rage and tears streamed down her face at the injustice. And then she startled me by coming from behind at full force and socking me in the arm.
I picked her up and carried her to her room. She insisted that I had hurt her feelings and she would not stop crying and if she couldn't go she would cut up various items of clothing, including her swimsuit. But I think she inherently knew the consequence of that (for one thing, no suit to wear swimming) and didn't follow through.
She came out of her room awhile later to cry on the chair, and we were able to discuss the situation a little more, still with tears and cries of injustice. She repeated, I had hurt her feelings. She repeats this mantra often: if I don't let her do something, her feelings have been trampled, even destroyed, blown to smithereens and strewn about the carpet. Yes, she repeats it often, and I tire of it often. In my rational mind, having your feelings hurt because you can't have every wish and whim fulfilled is really not having your feelings hurt. It's just not getting everything you want. I tried to explain this to her in a nice, 6 year-old kind of way. At which point she said that at school someone had hurt her feelings. And they had. My daughter's earlier explosive reaction now explained.
A group of girls had said she couldn't play with them at recess. And one of them was her friend who invited her over after school. Because today my daughter was useful for after school play, but not during. That always riles me a little bit, although I don't show it. I hate the petty games girls play. I was sometimes the target of these kinds of games in elementary school, and the few times I participated in them I always felt bad about. It seemed like the easiest way to gain acceptance, but in the end, the mean girls will be mean to everyone regardless of whether you're mean or not.
And so, I heard about the experience of rejection. And my heart ached a little bit because while the invitation to go run through sprinklers sounded like a divine welcome to her, it sounded like a sorry excuse for recompense to me. Fortunately I had already decided against the idea, and so I wasn't left with having to deal with my petty reaction and the desire to say "no" because this child had been mean to my child. Also I had just been preaching the virtues of "doing good to those that hate you" and all that, so my conscience gave me a quick lesson. My daughter had moved on to the rest of her day, which included one of the mean boys calling her a name. And I got to comfort some more.
I stood there in the middle of the kitchen making peanut butter sandwiches wishing with all my heart I could give my children personalities that didn't care. Not apathetic personalities, but those with the gift of perspective and grace of letting kids be kids, people be people; secure enough in themselves to move on and to make their own enjoyment.
This is something I've learned, because I was a little like my daughter; eager to have friends and be popular, caring too much for what those of a certain apparent status said and did. That ended in Jr High, thank goodness, when I was fortunate to have the epiphany that I didn't really like the kids who claimed to be the kings and queens of the hill, at least not enough to follow them around and do their bidding. But part of the ease of that transition is my basic hermitic nature. I don't mind being alone. It made it easier not to compromise myself, because the value of having to be with certain people was lessened, over the value of being me.
But my daughter is more social than I am. She really thrives on people and social opportunities. And she'll have to learn to navigate them. I suppose my goal is to love her enough that she knows she is valued and valuable, to love her enough that she can help others be loved and valued and valuable, too. It's not always the easiest lesson to incorporate, but there are many many opportunities to learn it.
In the end, my daughter sat on my lap and I held her tightly. "I just want to do something with you, Mom," she said, having shared all of her sorrows of the day, the sprinklers forgotten. "Can we watch The Empire Strikes Back?" My girls love Star Wars but I like to keep the viewing of it for "special days" because it just doesn't strike me as good regular movie fare for wee ones. "Yes, " I said. Because today is a special day.