I have to admit there are times when my daughter comes home from school and she seems distraught. After learning that she’s upset because someone who isn’t even a friend made a rude comment about her hair, I want to tell her to forget about it; to move on; that it doesn’t even matter in the first place and really, why does she care about what someone she doesn’t even know thinks about her hair?
If she’s happy with her hair, that’s all that matters.
And then I feel the urge to add little tidbits about how people who drop such trash about other people are really the ones who are unhappy.
But I don’t. Okay, that’s only half-true. I do tell her that people who talk about others like that are really just unhappy themselves, but I stop myself before I get to the “who cares, and you should move on” lecture because telling my child to “get over” something that they are clearly upset about is the worst advice I could give them.
Maybe it seems small and petty to me but to her, it’s kind of her whole world right now.
I have to remember that when I was 13 comments like that from were hurtful. I remember crying in my bedroom alone once when I was 14 because a guy told me (in front of a crowd of my friends) that he was having a party but there was no way he was inviting me. I didn’t even know him, but for some reason it really stung.
That wasn’t the only time I felt sad, vulnerable and completely left out. And if I’d told an adult (which I never did, probably because I knew they’d tell me to get over it), and they treated it like something minor and made me feel ashamed for having hurt feelings, it would pour salt into my already open wound.
I’ve had a lot of time to realize petty comments don’t matter in the long run.
My daughter hasn’t.
I know hurt feelings and broken hearts take time to mend and one day you wake up and feel a bit better than you did the day before and before you know it, you are a sturdier version of yourself.
My daughter doesn’t know this yet.
I have also had time to figure out what deserves my energy and time and what doesn’t.
My daughter will discover this with time and experience.
I didn’t learn any of these lessons by someone else disregarding my feelings. And I certainly didn’t get to that place any faster by people telling me to get over it.
In fact, it probably slowed down my healing process because it made me mad at myself for being upset because according to someone older and wiser, I shouldn’t even be upset in the first place so something must be wrong with me.
My teens need to feel hurt and discomfort but as their mom it’s hard for me to witness even though I know it’s an important part of their development. There are times when they are deeply upset and I want to let them know as they get older, things like that won’t matter as much. But I don’t. My kids are not me. They don’t want my advice and they don’t want to listen to my experiences unless they specifically ask. The proof is in their eye rolls as I open with, “Well, once in the 9th grade Peggy said…”
They want a mother who stops what she’s doing and listens with compassion and takes their situation seriously by validating their feelings. I’m not promoting self-pity and I’m not teaching them to wallow, I’m teaching them to digest their feelings, so they learn not to ignore them.
We all heal differently. Some need more time than others to get to the other side of a difficult road and it’s not my job to navigate that speed for my kids– it’s theirs and theirs alone.