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I'm Sending My Last Baby to College, and Everything Feels Like the First TimeElizabeth Spencer
My daughter, a high school student, called me in the middle of the day, feeling frustrated and overwhelmed. One of her teachers had given her three zeros for assignments she just KNEW she'd turned in, and she got a C on her bio test, bringing her grade in that class down to a B.
Not only that, she'd left her lunch in the car and didn’t have time to run out and grab it. She was hungry and now she wouldn’t be able to eat all day.
My poor girl was having a no good very bad day and she spilled it all out in a matter of seconds.
I suggested ways to handle the lunch dilemma, and then reminded her that she puts too much pressure on herself to get straight A’s and my gosh, so WHAT if she gets a few Bs? She works hard on her academics; I'm proud of all the time and effort she invests in her schoolwork and she should be proud of herself, too. I pointed out that there was time left in the quarter so not to worry about one test score. All that really matters is that she simply do the best that she can. As for the missing assignments, I encouraged her to be patient and keep advocating for herself until they were found.
She sighed and thanked me with less anguish in her voice. Before we said goodbye, I told her that none of the hard things she's going through today will change who she is and who she will grow up to be.
My daughter had applied for a part-time job at the new gym she'd joined. She enjoyed the classes there and liked the people, too, so she thought it would be the perfect opportunity.
She had already interviewed in person and just finished her final interview on the phone with the Human Resources department. She hadn’t known what to expect in the call and shared how disappointed she felt with how it went. He didn’t ask the questions she was prepared to answer that would prove she was a perfect fit for the job.
She concluded that there was no way she was going to get the job she wanted so badly; she'd failed.
We talked it through. She'd felt really uncomfortable during the call, which was natural — interviews are nerve-wracking, and it's hard to talk to strangers on the phone. I reminded her that she’s only interviewed for two other jobs and was still new at this experience, so she should feel good about her efforts. I was so proud of her for being bold enough to push through her fears. That alone made this a success.
I wanted to help her realize that what she's learning is far more important than getting the actual job. I assured her that, if she didn’t get it, then it wasn’t meant to be. She really wanted it, but there were other jobs out there that would be a great fit, too.
My daughter called me needing to talk about upsetting news. She'd found out some people she truly admired were making some terrible choices.
She poured out her hurt, anger and disappointment. It was devastating — she couldn’t understand why they would be involved in behavior that went against the values she thought they held. Feeling betrayed by their dishonesty, she concluded that she just couldn’t trust anyone anymore.
I listened and nodded and consoled, as I always do. Then we sorted through all the difficult layers of her emotions and the upheaval that came with them.
It’s hard when people you look up to let you down, and my girl was experiencing the painful realization that even role models can make big mistakes.
I wanted to help her understand how we are all broken in our own ways and no one is perfect. I wanted my girl to see that everyone has their own personal struggles and sometimes we won’t understand their choices and we can feel disappointed in them, too. But we must try to recognize that we're all doing the best we can and surely, we must believe the same for her friends.
These recent episodes are small snippets of the many meltdowns I manage as my daughter grows up and faces hard things. I often find myself helping her put difficult situations in perspective more than anything else.
I have well-worn experience in learning how to control those overwhelming, heated moments of unraveling when faced with difficult circumstances. I’ve learned to approach them by stepping back and taking in a deeper and wider view of the situation. I consider the life lessons I can learn from whatever problem I’m facing. Realizing I can grow from an experience, in ways only it can teach me, brings me the clarity and assurance I need to make it through.
As I continue to parent my girl through these challenging years, I want to teach her this important approach to facing hard things, and help her understand that, when she feels consumed by a heartbreak or a bad day, there's a much bigger landscape to consider.
Shifting her thinking will make those tough moments more manageable and help her see them from a more hopeful point of view. When she’s on her own, dealing with difficult experiences that can easily erupt in flames, she'll be ready to douse the blaze with this healthy perspective. Quelling the heat of the moment will bring the assurance and clarity she needs.
Because there will be many of those moments to come as she gets older.
And when they do, I hope she will believe that, although it can feel like her world is being rocked off its axis, it will always keep spinning and not only will she survive, she will have learned a whole lot, too.
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