Saturday, November 5, 2011

Stepping Stones pt. 2 (or It's o.k. to be sad)

So Abby's stepping stone broke.
(if you wanna know how you gotta read part 1 here)

Shattered really.

Did she drop it? Was she careless?
Did she leave it out in the rain?

She placed her new creation proudly and gently on the ground and she stepped on it.

It broke.

My daughter broke her stepping stone by stepping on it.

Is anything more ironic?

First I picked up the broken pieces of her homemade stone (as gently as I would have if it were her own heart splattered on the sidewalk) and then I scooped her up in my arms.

Knowing all she had gone through I felt terrible for Abigail. She created her craft after much (and I mean much!) perseverance and patience. Her painstakingly created stepping stone shattered within seconds.
And everything inside of me wanted to "fix" it for her.
I wanted to make it better.
I wanted her to not hurt.

So my mind began racing. I thought about gluing it but I knew that wouldn't work.
We couldn't make another one for I had no more materials.
There was nothing I could do.
I couldn't fix this.
And now my heart was broke.
But what was I going to do?
If I can't fix it what could I do?

I could distract her.
I could buy her something else to cover up her pain.
I could make her a promise about making another stepping stone, buying another kit or going to the garden store next spring and getting a bigger and better stepping stone.

But I knew I didn't want to pacify her.
I knew I didn't want to trick her into feeling better.
I couldn't bring myself to trivialize her heartache with a promise, a replica or distraction.

You see, I think that we do a disservice when we don't allow our children to feel pain. I realize that sentence sounds completely masochistic especially if taken out of the context of this story but hear me out....

I'm not proposing we cause pain or
induce pain or
protect our children from pain.

I think we should do all the above to the best of our ability.

What I'm saying is that sometimes we put all our efforts as parents (or friends or sisters or daughters for that matter) to help deflect discomfort for our loved ones and yet ...  pain finds us.
Pain finds us all.
No matter how hard we try to avoid it.
And some of us work very, very hard to avoid pain.
Some of us work harder at avoiding pain than we do actually enjoying life.
(Now that's a tragedy!)

Pain happens.
Hearts get broke.
Friends betray us.
Lovers stop loving us.
Families quarrel.
Teachers make mistakes.
Bosses blame
and stepping stones break.

Pain happens.
I held Abby close to me, stroked her hair and told her how sorry I was. But I didn't pretend to fix it because I can't fix all her pain - not now, not ever. Instead, I hope, through something as simple as a cheap plaster paris kit, she learns not that pain exists but instead how to deal when pain comes.

Wouldn't that be the better lesson to learn?
Shouldn't I teach her how to cope with pain
not avoid it
or pretend it doesn't exist.
What if I robbed her the opportunity to experience genuine sadness?
Isn't sadness is a real feeling?
Like happy?
I would never consider not letting her be happy, why would I feel any differently about unavoidable sadness?
Would she be a better person?
Could she learn how to manage her feelings better?
Would she learn to face life with bravery?

It's just a stepping stone, I know.
But I saw this whole instance as a pivotal point in time.
I choose to let Abby cry and carry on.
And I was there for her.
Not with ice cream or promises of a better tomorrow
but with care and concern.
I think I made the right decision.
Life has sad times.
Let's stop pretending it doesn't.

Your comments are welcome here .... what do you think? Have you ever had this struggle? What would you have done if you were me?

another yeahwrite submission!

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  1. Your article has much meaning. If we shelter our children from disappointment, discouragment, and/or pain, they are not being equipped for the life ahead. One of the hardest things in this life is to "see" your children, no matter their age, in pain...great insight in your parenting and writing skill...

  2. Thank you for your comment! It was a hard experience for me, when i resigned myself to allow my daughter to experience her pain. It is precisely my hope though to equip her as you've said.

  3. You are so right! We do need our children to experience those emotions, even disappointment and sadness, even if it kills us in the process. I will say, you must be one tough cookie to PHOTOGRAPH your poor daughter as she cried!

    1. IKR!!!!
      I pulled my phone out from my picket and snapped it ... just before all that comforting that I smothered her with!

  4. Ah man! That was so freaking sweat and sad. :(
    You're a good mommy.

  5. Oh, this is wonderful. It is so hard to see our children hurting, but I believe you are right - pain will find them, and it's best for them to learn healthy ways to handle it early. You get my vote this week.

  6. Aw, that's sad. I understand wanting to protect her! Poor stone.

  7. I love this post. Our job as parents is not to fix our children, but to give them the skills to cope with life's tragedies in their own way, on their own time.

  8. I'm nodding my head here in agreement.

    "And I was there for her.
    Not with ice cream or promises of a better tomorrow
    but with care and concern." I loved this. A wholehearted YES from me.

  9. Oh I totally struggle with this. My parents were "fixers" so the urge is so so so strong in me. But I am not as resourceful and resilient as I wish I were and I think their need to fix everything FOR me is the culprit there. So it is a very conscious thing, something I have to be keenly aware of, to measure my impulse to "fix" against the fact that it is not actually DANGEROUS to let my kids feel badly for a little while.

  10. My natural instinct is to want to wipe away the pain my kids will go through.

    But you're right, they need to learn to experience pain, process it, deal with it, be okay with it and get past it.

  11. Nice piece and all you can do is be there for them. It broke my heart a little that it broke right away--poor baby. Erin

  12. I pinned something just was a quote from Robert A Heinlein "Do not handicap your children by making their lives easy". I think we do our kids a disservice when we pave the road for them. Pain is a part of life and we need to be equipped to handle it. I think you hit the nail on the head with this post! Love it!

  13. Amazing post. You are so wise. It's so hard to not try to make it better. But you're right, we're not doing our children any favors by always just making it better or sweeping away their pain.

  14. love this: you used the broken stepping stone as a stepping stone into a lesson on dealing with pain. perfect. and i absolutely agree with your reaction and thoughts on the matter.

  15. Such an important point and so beautifully written. I could yibber on forever about how it related to my life (and have several times and keep deleting it!) but this is about you and your daughter's journey. I think you made the right decision and you will both be better people for it. x

  16. I so deeply and completely agree. You handled this situation with such foresight, insight and compassion. We do no favors when we side-step sadness or pain. I will take this lesson to heart :)

  17. Oh, it's so hard when things like this happens. But you're right, it is so important for them to learn that things like this happen. Very good post.

  18. We do a disservice to our children when we shield them from pain--try to quickly make it better, or never tell them "no." If they grow up unable to withstand discomfort, they will run from it through alcohol, food, sex...trying to numb anything that is difficult to hold. It all passes. The happiness just like the sadness. We have to teach them to hold all of it so that they can let it go. Love this post.


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