Growing up is hard. Sometimes I take a lot of the lessons I’ve learned over the years for granted, without ever having realized how awful it must have been for my mother to stand back and let me learn them. Until one of my children has to go through a tough one.
Biggest learned the unfortunate truth about disappointment yesterday. It almost killed me. True story. He had his first ever optometrist visit (no glasses required!), and got to pick a prize for his excellent behaviour. I was pretty proud on a side note, he did amazing. Anyway, he chose one of those inexpensive little knock-off cars, and off we went. Sadly, since it was an inexpensive knock-off… (Thank heavens his Hot Wheel cars are made to be sturdy! I wouldn’t want to go through this on a regular basis.)… it broke. It was living for a whole four hours. Well. The sky fell. We didn’t find out until bedtime, which may have made it worse. We had to put it in the garbage. It wasn’t glueable. It wasn’t fixable. And if I remember correctly, being under 10 and having to throw a toy out feels like you’re leaving a beloved friend out in the desert to die alone. Even if it was only 4 hours old. So. This is how 30 minutes of bedtime consolation went.
Biggest: But the r-r-rescue truck was my f-f-favorite!!!
Me: I know, and I’m sorry, but it’s broken. I couldn’t fix it. I’m going to find you another one to replace it, because you did a really good job at the eye doctor’s office, but I can’t go get it until tomorrow.
Biggest: B-b-but there’s another one at the doctor’s office. You can go there, Mommy.
Me: But those are for the other children. I can’t go back and get another one.
Biggest: But t-t-that truck was my favorite!
Me: I know, I’m going to give you a different one. But you’ll need to wait until tomorrow.
Biggest: But there’s more at the e-e-eye doctor’s o-o-office.
At this point, I changed tactics. I decided to try and deal with the disappointment first.
Me: I know you’re disappointed, Biggest. That’s really upsetting to have to lose a toy. I know you liked that one.
Biggest: I did! Rescue trucks are my favorite. Not cars. Rescue trucks. You know, there’s more at the doctor’s office.
Me: I’ve already explained that. I know you’re disappointed but I can’t go back there and get another one. That’s just not how it works.
Biggest: I like rescue trucks, Mommy. You could get me another rescue truck!
Me: I can’t. I know it’s hard when you’re disappointed, and you’re allowed to be upset, but your rescue truck is gone. I couldn’t fix it.
Biggest: Well, when it broke, my tummy was mad, and then I was worried it’d go in the garbage. But you can fix it.
Me: Oh! I know how that feels. My tummy gets mad too when I’m upset about something like that. But I can’t fix it. I tried to fix it in the bathroom just now, when Daddy showed it to me, but it fell apart right away.
Biggest: Well, I was playing with it. And I tried to fix it. And then my tummy was mad.
Me: I know, I would have been sad about that.
This went on for a while. I tried every way I could think of to explain to a four year old that it was disappointing but I couldn’t fix it and I couldn’t get another one that was exactly the same. At some point, he stopped crying and got angry with me. And at that second, as much as I was sympathetic (thanks to those dried-out markers I had to throw away when I was 9…), I realized that replacing his truck right away wasn’t going to help him. So I had to remember that I was a parent. That as much as it was totally awful dealing with true disappointment in a four year old, I had to help him learn this lesson. So I’m going to replace his truck. But it’ll have to wait until Sunday when I’m off and can get to the store. Replacing his truck right away doesn’t allow him to deal with the feelings he was having. It just buries them. That being said, I did note that he was able to tell me what he was feeling, and that’s a good start.
Boy, being a mommy is tough.
My surprise of the day was how persistent Biggest was. He knew what he wanted. He knew where what he wanted was. He knew HOW MANY were left in the drawer at the office. I think that might have been the toughest part of all. It’s not easy to counter intelligent logic. I am going to have to know my stuff when he gets bigger. I think my brain was sweating by the time I finished tucking him in. By the way, I ended up just having to leave. When he started getting angry, he started pushing my buttons too. So I had to tell him that we’d discuss it in the morning, and that it was time for bed, and that sometimes when we’re really upset, we just need to go to sleep and let it be. And I had to close the door.
… If I could fly to the nearest toy store and buy you an exact replica, I would have…
Oh! Another tough lesson? Littlest having to learn that he’s not as big as Biggest. When he has to stay while Biggest goes to play with his friend. And when Mommy takes Biggest to an appointment and he can’t come. The pout on that child would turn an ice sculpture into a sobbing puddle. It’s heart wrenching and tummy maddening when Littlest wanders around asking if he can get his shoes now, or if he’s ready to get his pants on now, and you have to say that he’s not coming. Especially when all he can say is a hopeful “Come too??”. More disappointment. Another door I had to close. Another sky fallen.
… If I didn’t have to choose to leave you so you could have a nap and be your happy Littlest self, i’d take you…
Being a Mommy is really tough. It’s amazing my sky doesn’t fall sometimes.
And sometimes it does.
Until next time.
PS: As tough as Mommyhood is, I’m still happy to report that Biggest didn’t even mention his rescue truck today (probably because he only actually had it for four hours) and Littlest was just as chipper today and waved and said goodbye to me with a big hug as I went off to work this morning (probably because he got to watch Busytown and snuggle Daddy while I was out, which is almost as good as going out.). I’m almost positive the entire experience was worse for me.