Saturday, February 4, 2012

Handling disappointment

Snuggler choked on her middle school entrance exam today. The first section was speed multiplication, 50 problems in three minutes. As homeschoolers, we have never done this. Fluency in calculations is necessary for math, but there are calculators for that kind of speed. And besides, computation is a lousy measure of mathematic ability; there are excellent mathematicians who stink at addition and subtraction. Eldest can vouch for that! 

At any rate, Snuggler freaked, and after those first three minutes had a hard time gathering her wits. She made some foolish mistakes on the rest of the math section. Then there were three essays, all of which it sounds like she aced. But the school she wants to attend focuses on math, science and engineering. And all her friends thought the math was easy. And she is devastated at the thought that they will get to go to this terrific school, and she will not. So this afternoon she sobbed for a while, then went off to be alone. Then she came back in for a hug, then retreated. Then there were more tears. And so on. 

If I didn't have to hold it together to help my child, I think I would cry: I hate to see her hurt so much. I hate to see her writhe this way, to feel so terribly bad. And while I know it's not over 'til it's over (and we've got a long wait, for we won't find out until late May or early June) in a way it's better to assume the worst, and let it be what it is.

I remind myself that my job is not to try to make her feel better right now. My job is to let her feel her feelings, and to empathize with them. My job is to make sure she's handling the disappointment in a healthy way. My job is to love her and guide her through the lousiness so that she knows that disappointment passes, and pain passes, and hurt heals, and most setbacks in life -- even the hard ones -- are situations from which we can recover.

It's a stinky job. But the payoff is this: tonight she came in for another snuggle, and as she started to cry she said, "Oh Mommy! I feel so stupid... even though I know I'm not!"

That sounds pretty darn healthy way to me. And I'm so proud of her for that. Even though she did just come in again, at nearly 10pm, in tears.  


  1. I love what you said about letting your daughter feel her feelings, and empathizing with her! Bravo, mama. Way too often, we either rush to rescue our kids, or tell them their feelings are wrong. Thanks for writing about this . . . it's a good reminder for me.

  2. poor chicken. but, yes, you're giving her good tools.

  3. Awww, my heart breaks a little for her but you really are giving her the best emotional tools. And I LOVE that she knows she's not stupid, even in the face of a set-back that makes her feel that way in the short term.

  4. My oldest just found out that she did not get into the P.A. program that she applied for. She is not used to rejection and it was hard for her but I told her that God has something else in mind for her.