When Life Hurts Your Child

Helping kids deal with disappointment

I still remember my First Big Disappointment. While I'm sure there had been others—smaller things—before this disappointment, nothing stands out quite like not making the school play when I was in seventh grade.

I suppose it was because it was the first thing I'd wanted—rather badly—that I'd worked hard at, practiced for, tried out for, but been cut from. It was the first time I'd been told, essentially, "You are not good enough."

Or at least that's how I read that typed-white sheet, with lists of names that were not mine—hanging there on the bulletin board for all my junior high to see.

I remember the moments that followed so clearly: me, faking a headache, heading to the school office, asking to call my mom. I remember getting home, telling my mom the news, climbing on to her lap and just crying. Crying and crying. She rocked me—probably for the first time in years (I was 12!)—and just let me cry. She probably told me it'd be okay or offered some soothing words. But all I remember is her holding me while I cried.

Then, when my crying turned into sporadic sniffles, when I was ready to talk a bit, she told me it was okay that it hurt right now. But maybe someday—maybe—it'd all make sense. But even if it didn't, she told me I'd have to make a decision: to either stay bitter and angry at the friends who did make the play or to cheer them on anyway—even if it hurt a bit.

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