Can you really fix your kid's problems?

Can you really fix your kid's problems?
Photo by fit.webmd

Did you ever have one of those weekends where everything went great? Yeah, well for me, this wasn't one of them.  Each one of my kids had little heartbreaks.  It seemed like every time I got one hole plugged up, another stream of water would break through the dam somewhere else.

This was a big swim weekend for high school girls and their whole season came down to one meet.  Nothing they did before Saturday meant anything - they needed to hit a certain time at this one meet in order to qualify for State.  On Friday my senior said she wasn't feeling well.  I thought it was just nerves and sent her on her way.  She ended the day with 103 degree fever and in tears.

I spent a good chunk of time telling her how little it all mattered in the grand scheme of life and sent her to bed.  After a 13 hour nap she still was feverish and I spent the morning nursing her back to health - thank you Advil.  After reminding her that Jordan had his best game when he had the flu, I shuffled her off to the pool and then ran around trying to clean the house for the post-meet party we were hosting. Then my 6 year old asked if we could talk.

"Why do you think my soccer coach doesn't like me?  Do you think it's because I'm too slow?  Do you think I'll always be slow?  Why would he only like me if I'm good at soccer?  I'm good at other things and I like him - and I'd never yell at him for being slow."  Hmmm, That was a tough one.  Maybe it was so hard because he was right.  I took a very indirect route in telling him what some people are like and value.  I'm sure I gave him way too much information, because about 10 minutes in he said he's fine and could he go play Skylanders?

That afternoon I was at the meet and came about as close to having a heart attack as possible watching my daughters compete.  My oldest made it in her first two events but then the third one came.  The big one.  Both my kids were in lanes right next to each other vying for the same position at State.  My senior made it, my sophomore did not.  She flinched on the start and was disqualified.  The first time in seven years of swimming that it's ever happened.

That was her only chance and to say she was heartbroken would be a gross understatement.  I cried as I saw her slumped over the diving board sobbing.  She qualified multiple times throughout the year, so it was a no-brainer.  It was her only event.  We had a full afternoon and evening of alligator tears spontaneously streaming down her cheeks.

In the middle of all this chaos, my 11 year old came up to me with devastation in her eyes and said, "look."  She handed me her ipod touch and showed me pictures on Instagram.  There were a number of photos of a birthday party from someone that she thought was a good friend.  A girl I drive in my car.  I didn't handle that one so great.  I was under a time crunch since I had a few dozen people coming over in an hour and said, "Want to invite a friend to go go-karting tomorrow?"  I know money can't buy happiness, but it's a pretty good bandaid.

After way too much Polish Vodka on Saturday night, I set my alarm for 5:30 Sunday morning to watch my 13 year old's water polo game on the computer that was four hours away.  Later that day she called.

"We lost every game.  Wait, lost is too positive of a word.  We're getting crushed."

"Ah, no big deal.  It's all about the experience - this is your first time away without us, so that has to be great!"

"It started out great, but I really just want to sleep.  I also don't feel well.  My stomach hurts so much and I don't want to go out with everyone, can I just stay in the hotel?  I feel like I'm going to throw up."

Now this one I really can't do anything about since I'm so far away.  I had to do a little tough love.

"Sorry you don't feel well, but you need to suck it up.  Drink lots of water and eat some cracker.  It probably wouldn't hurt to sit in the bathroom for an hour."

"ok."

The weekend is over.  Just like Jordan, my Senior rallied and qualified for all her events.  After hours of counseling, I think my sophomore realizes that we learn much more in life from our failures than our successes.  My 13 year old drank a pitcher of water and ate the whole bread basket at dinner and seemed to be cured - she also played the last game with a huge smile on her face the whole time - even while getting crushed.  My 11 year old spent Sunday afternoon racing cars with a friend and had a blast.  Her purpose was to post dozens of retaliation pictures, but in the end realized it was the fun, not the revenge that she valued.  We've decided not to do indoor soccer for our six-year-old - at that age he should be surrounded by people that love him.

I emerged feeling like I repaired all the holes, but did I really fix any of their problems?  No, but it made me realize the the author of the Wizard of Oz was brilliant - I took the role of Glenda the good witch and let my kids know "You don't need to be helped any longer.  You've always had the power inside you."

That's the role we should take.  We can't just fix things or they don't know how to handle adversity when they're out on their own.  We can be a shoulder and a band aid, but the heartbreak is theirs alone to repair.  I will always be my kid's cheerleader, but I'm done with fixing, however maybe not so much with being petty -- when a certain someone calls me for a ride for their kid, I'll tell her to go ask one of her other party invitees.

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