Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Cabin o' Cousins: Facing Disappointment

I just returned from a long weekend away where my three kids and my sister's four kids all hung out in a camp-like setting.  Needless to say, it was a whole lot of fun, and hanging around with all those kids made me, at times, feel like a kid.  Bungee-trampoline jumping, putt putt playing, looking-for-bears hiking, marshmallow toasting, swimmin' hole swimming, tall tree climbing...plus a whole lot of time just hanging out.

During those little adventures and hours of hanging out, one or two children were sure to have an outburst of tears. For example:

My sister reprimanded Lorelei that climbing a tree needed to be done without help; Lorelei cried when her aunt took away the pile of logs that she was dangerously assisting her to get up and down a tall pine.

D's patience with the rope swing at the river was, um, severely limited at times; he had to sit out a turn (the peaceful, natural setting soon had screams of anger as well as cool water running through it).

A craft that J had been working on in our cabin had been taken apart; she whined "It's not fair!" and had to start over and lose 15 minutes and a handful of beads to Ben, who thought (incorrectly) she wasn't interested in her project anymore.

At one point or another, all of the kids suffered some sort of disappointment. And that sense of disappointment touched them deeply in a kid way--they HAD to respond, noisily, with tears and sorrow because the frustration wouldn't stay inside their little bodies.

It made me realize, watching these loud bursts of painful disappointments, how each and every child DID get over it.  These little disappointments, which feel anything but little to them, are like training for the bigger disappointments they'll sadly but inevitably face in the decades to come.  Hopefully they'll see the pattern: something happens I didn't expect, I cry about it, I take a deep breath and redo the situation, I get over it.

As an adult, I had two big thoughts: First, I think that I should--we all should--let out the burst of feeling when something disappointing happens to us.  Cry! Scream at the river! Yell "It's not fair!" as if you believe that life is actually fair.  This release-of-feeling part of the process sure was loud and messy, but I think it actually helped the kids tell anyone and everyone that THEY WERE HURT! Why do we adults often keep it all in, putting on a brave face and gulping down our feelings?

Second, they did get over those disappointments.  Soon enough, they were back up the tree, back at the rope climb, back at the crafting, having left the disappointment behind them in that day.  They didn't seem to harbor resentment or dwell on the disappointment for longer than 15 or 30 minutes.  They forgave the person who wronged them (often just by enforcing the rules!) and, more importantly, forgave themselves for making a poor choice.  They didn't let that little disappointment stand in the way of a day of fun.

Hanging out with kids is always a good thing--there is so much to learn from them!  (But, as summer ends and school begins, I look forward to the quieter hours of reflection that I have without them when they are in their teachers' capable hands...!)

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