It was 1 a.m., and I heard Dane screaming my name. I came flying down the stairs to find him on the floor with her in shock. It was a night I will never forget as we stayed up trying to sort it all out in our heads. What happened? It was just an infection. Then, we went into crazy parent protection mode: How are we going to tell the kids? How are they going to be able to endure this pain, if we can hardly bear it? As many of you know, we unexpectedly lost our sweetest Ophelia last fall. She had a horrible infection of her paw that quickly seeped into her bloodstream and caused her to pass away in the middle of the night. She was only four and was a major piece of our family.
As a typical mom, I couldn’t fathom having to give this excruciating news to my kids. As parents, we’re taught to protect our loveys from feeling any sort of pain. But why? This really had me conflicted, so with extreme hesitation, I decided it was an opportunity for all of us to sit in this pain as a family. We needed to talk about it, feel it, and know that we could endure it by just getting inside of it. We shared our favorite stories about her. We cried together. We laughed together. We’re still healing together.
We parents focus solely on keeping our children joyful, smart, and entertained, but how much are we concentrating on our kids being able to exist in the difficult emotions? Why aren’t we exposing them to the painful stuff and allowing them realize that their hearts have the capacity to make it through hard times that can teach them the most valuable lessons? We, instead, want to bandage it up and pretend it doesn’t exist. Tim Ferris says it best: “Avoiding short term pain is to guarantee 10x’s the pain in the future.” Meaning, if we don’t teach our children coping skills to deal with life’s dreadful moments, unfair events, and broken hearts, then we aren’t giving them the emotional tools they need to live life to it’s fullest. If they’re incapable of sitting still in their pain, they will often turn to a gazillion unhealthy outlets to numb their feelings. Or, even worse, they pass their pain along to those they love because they don’t know how to handle it themselves.
Whether the grief they experience is getting left out at school or losing a loved one, we have to teach them how to cope within the variety of emotions they will encounter. You’ve heard it time and time again, “Kids these days!” or “Damn Millennials!” But, here’s my point, who is teaching them? We, the adults, are the ones responsible for any behaviors of entitlement, selfishness, or self destructive behavior. We blame the youth for being weak and helpless, but who’s the one handing out the “Participation” trophies, instead of letting our children lose? What about teaching them how to stand up for themselves instead of getting involved in their arguments with friends? We are putting these bubbles around them, and it’s doing them a huge disservice. It’s because we ourselves are ill-equipped to manage the suffering. We aren’t allowing them to FEEL if it’s anything other than happiness. That is why, so often, when they get out of college, they can’t handle the harsh realities of the world. They’ve only known “happy” times, rather than being taught that sometimes the best parts of our lives are as a result of the painful experiences we have to endure. We surrender to our children when it becomes just an ounce uncomfortable for them or for us. How many times have you given in when they threw a fit over something they wanted? I’m guilty. What about keeping them entertained at all hours of the day, instead of letting them experience boredom? Yep, me too. We concentrate on their intellectual and physical well beings, but what about their emotional stability?
Our job is to empower them, when we do for them what they should be doing for themselves, we are creating entitlement and dependency rather than empowerment. They need to KNOW they can get through incredibly hard things and using healthy habits to do so: talking, praying, meditating, exercising, writing, going for a walk, deep breathing, reading, a favorite hobby, are a few ways to relinquish feelings of hurt and sadness. We must show them how to identify and manage emotions and learn to tolerate life’s inevitable suffering. Pain and sadness aren’t “wrong” emotions to have, they teach us acceptance, perspective, and enhance our most joyful experiences. Life has unlimited opportunities in store, but they are always accompanied by the unknown and usually pain tags along. It’s completely contradictory, but when we get in the pain, it becomes less, but, if we shy away from it, it will become immense. When we leave our comfort zone, stop resisting, and sit within the nastiness, we learn that we have the capability to persevere. If it doesn’t challenge them, it won’t change them.
All My Best,