Navigating Disappointment

Although I knew it was coming, it still hit me hard. In Virginia, K-12 school will be online for the rest of the year. As sad as I was to learn this, nothing compared to the heartache my daughter, an eight-year-old, felt when I shared the news with her. Sorrowful tears rolled down her face as she peppered me with questions, trying to wrap her brain around what this means and what it will feel like in the days and weeks to come.

As a parent, not being able to fix our kids’ heartache prompts a unique kind of pain. Most of us yearn for the ability to make their lives perfect and worry-free. We don’t want to see them disappointed, we want to carefully curate their lives. Accepting we are not in control, and must go with the flow, can initially make us feel inadequate and as if we are somehow failing them. We must fight those lies and cling to the truth about our role. It is not up to us to fix everything and make it perfect; it is our role to help guide them through hardship and disappointment while inspiring strength and encouraging resiliency.  

As sadness continued to wash over Harper, I cozied up to her on the couch, let her cry and listened to her share. She just needed me to be present. Once Harper had shared her hardest feelings, and her tears were starting to lessen, we began a conversation about how we would grow together through the rest of the year. It mattered to me that I encouraged her to see a bigger and broader picture beyond the very specific disappointment she was facing. 

It wasn’t about telling Harper it could be worse – that’s one of my least favorite possible responses because it is pessimistic and undermines the feelings someone is experiencing. When it comes to pain and struggle there is no need for comparison but I do know that alternative perspectives can help – it is a fine line between the two but an important line to distinguish.

The perspective Harper and I chose was that of an overcomer. Together, we looked disappointment in the face and dared it to hold us down.

We began by brainstorming how we could make the rest of the year great. We discussed planning creative learning projects at home so she could guide how she learns the rest of the year. Come to find out, she wants to do the iconic volcano science experiment, so that has been added to our homeschool bucket list.

We took an action step of messaging her teacher to see if we could have a phone call, so Harper still feels connected to the educator she has come to love so deeply. Establishing that connection point helped Harper feel instantly better.

I then reminded Harper about how she has choices to make in the coming days as to how this home school experience will play out. She has to help me make it amazing; we have a shared responsibility in this.

I will forever remind my kids and myself that it does not have to be perfect to be wonderful. Even with our most well hatched Pinterest-perfect plans we will bump into times when all those plans fall through and we are left scrambling for a Plan B (or C!). Admittedly, school being closed for a pandemic is an epitome of plans falling through but I remain stubborn in my commitment to overcome disappointment and find joy in this season. And, when I struggle to remember it myself, I’m asking my friends and family to hold me accountable to this guiding principle. 

The rest of the school year will not be perfect. It will be laced with homeschool struggles, major work-life balance issues for me, and frustrations over missing the friends we cannot see. But we will make it wonderful. We will find ways to seek gratitude for the time we have together. Through it, we will learn more about each other and I’m committed to drawing closer to my son, daughter and husband as we navigate the challenges along the way.

The very act of walking through this surreal time in our lives will be an exercise in growth and development for each of us. And, our kids are watching! I’m putting on my momma bear persona, digging in my heels, and fighting for joy in our household. I don’t think it will always be easy, I’m not that idyllic, but I do know with intention, choice and a wonderfully stubborn spirit, this season will not be a wasted opportunity for growth.

How are you maximizing on this unexpected season? I’d love to know!

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