Picture this: three friends… bosom buddy friends… kindred spirit friends… tender age of just-about-to-hit-middle-school-angst friends.
They all audition for the same show because they all love musical theater and dancing and singing and acting. And they love doing it together. So much.
They giggle anxiously, anticipating the cast list…
Finally, the message arrives: one of the three gets the lead. Hurray! Another hears she gets the part she wanted! Cheers! More waiting…
There it is: the third friend didn’t make it.
Anguish. Tears. That kind of heave-ho crying that shakes the shoulders and steals the breath.
Have you been here? That hard place between heartache and life lesson? That place where you know the harshness hones and matures and grows your child like nothing else, but it’s still unbearable to watch?
Yeah. THAT place.
An unwelcome place, for sure. But after passing through that valley, I can honestly say I wouldn’t have had it any. other. way.
That’s right. I’m glad my kid didn’t make the cut.
Because through that rejection and subsequent loneliness, our girl learned to feel her pain without wallowing in it; to recognize the selfishness of jealousy; to congratulate her friends and rejoice with them; to trust that her friendships, if true and authentic, could withstand the summer of separation.
Had she made the show, she would would have had a great time for sure. But the opportunities for honing and maturity and growth? She would have missed out.
The truth? Disappointment happens, and while it is beyond hard to see our children struggle through it, our responsibility is to help them make the journey anyway. The good news is this: with help, the journey can be a good one.
Here are a few lessons our daughter learned along the way:
It’s okay to be sad.
The temptation is to dismiss a child’s sadness thinking Really? He’s sad about THAT? Ridiculous! But to your child, feeling left out and not measuring up equals failure and separation whether it is not making the travel baseball team in first grade or the swing choir as a sophomore in high school. Whatever his age, a child’s lack of success can leave him feeling inadequate. And sad. So where there are tears, let them come. We held our daughter and actually said the words, “It’s okay to be sad.”
It’s not okay to STAY sad.
While it is okay to be sad initially, we need to be careful that we don’t allow or encourage our children to wallow in sorrow. Staying sad is selfish and can lead to bitterness. So, after what seemed like an appropriate amount of grieving, we said, “It’s okay to be sad, but it’s not okay to stay sad.”
Replace the sadness with gratitude.
It’s not enough to tell a child to stop being sad, though, because it will create a void making the child feel sad all over again! Instead, help change her thinking by showing her the good in the new circumstances. For example, we showed our daughter on a calendar that without all the rehearsal times, we’d have time to go on a family vacation and she’d have the opportunity to have several sleep-overs.
True friends double the joy and divide the grief.
Our daughter feared that her friends would forget about her. The whole thing was a relationship test for sure, but we counseled that she was responsible for her behavior, and that a true friend should be happy when another friend succeeds. So we encouraged her to call her friends to congratulate them on making the show. And you know what? She did! And those same sweet friends expressed genuine sorrow that our girl didn’t make it. It was hard but beautiful.
A couple of years have passed since my daughter was cut from that show, and just yesterday, she bounced through the door after dance class bursting with news: her friend was announced as the lead for the annual dance recital production. Our daughter’s first reaction? Genuine excitement for her friend. No jealousy. No grief.
Bottom line: instead of shielding your children from the pain of disappointment, teach them how to walk through it.
If you do, you’ll end up being glad when your children don’t make the cut, too, because disappointment does far more to shape their character than any amount of success and achievement.