Lessons learned and taught

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From a Momma's Heart

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I have been planning a vacation with my parents and my boys. It is the first time in over three years that I have been able to even consider a vacation. The first time in three years that work, finances, and timing all collided at the right moment.

I can’t wait to make memories with my mom and dad. They are getting to the age where I treasure every single visit, moment and conversation because I never know how many I might have left. That trip is only a week and a half away.

I opened my work email yesterday afternoon to find a “Save The Date” email. Imagine my horror to find that corporate meetings would now be held the week of my scheduled vacation. These meetings are not negotiable. Excuses are only given for deaths, either your own or an immediate family member. I was crushed. Disappointment fell heavy on me and I wept tears of frustration coupled with tears of sadness for the memories I will not get to make.

That disappointment soon turned to anger and I contemplated a good old-fashioned tantrum, complete with stomping and throwing things. My youngest son saw this tempest brewing and immediately knew something was very wrong. When I explained the situation, I saw the disappointment wash over his sweet face while he tried valiantly not to let it show. He calmly asked, “how are you going to handle that?” That innocent question coming from a face so full of disappointment immediately punched me in the gut and the anger was gone. I had to calm down and reassure him. I asked myself all night and most of today, “how are you going to handle that?”

How do you handle disappointment? Do you cry? Do you throw tantrums? Do you carry that disappointment around with you forever? Does it get buried only to mix with all the other disappointments you have had in your life? My Momma perspective takes over as I contemplate disappointment and I realize that as mothers and fathers, we often take our own experience with disappointments and teach that to our children. Given that disappointment is inevitable, how do we handle that? How do we teach our children to handle their disappointments?

Some people end up turning into underachievers. They unconsciously set their expectations of themselves and others low in order to avoid being disappointed. Others deal with disappointment by becoming overachievers. Sometimes, though, they set the bar so high, there is no way they can meet their own expectations, which can lead to..., disappointment. Then you have those fortunate souls with a more balanced developmental history. They had parents who did not try to be perfect and did not expect their children to be perfect. These individuals are not afraid to play, explore, learn, grow, fail and succeed. This exploration allows them to acquire the inner strength necessary to cope constructively with their inevitable disappointments in life. As a mamma, this is what I wish to teach my children. I wish to teach them that disappointments hurt but they also provide us with valuable information about our beliefs, other people, and ultimately, ourselves.

Today my youngest son and I had the pleasure of eating lunch with my daddy. As we were walking up to the restaurant a lady saw my dad’s Viet Nam Vet cap and rushed up, clasped his hand and said, “welcome home.” As my dad thanked her, I saw the tears well up in his eyes. When we sat down, my son asked my dad, “Paw, why did that lady say welcome home?” My dad took a deep breath and he said, “Serving in Viet Nam as a combat medic, I saw more hurt, pain, and suffering than you can imagine. When my tour was over and I arrived back on U.S. soil in Seattle, I was called names, spit on, rocks and other things were thrown at me as if I were scum.” He went on to tell my son that the lady at the restaurant was telling him that she respected and appreciated his service. I watched my daddy tell that story with tears in his eyes and could not help but wonder about his disappointment. Disappointment that he had served his country, saw his comrades suffer and die, and watched untold horrors that most of us will never know and was treated like an enemy when he returned home. Disappointment felt in his fellow Americans and their callous treatment of those young men. Disappointment still to this day that the country he served and loves so much is full of hate and division.

And just like that I realize that my disappointment is nothing in comparison. My parents raised a couple of those balanced kids. We take our disappointments and learn humbleness, wisdom and often empathy. I hope that I am teaching those same lessons to my boys because disappointments are inevitable and while stomping might make us feel better for a few minutes, those lessons learned will last a lifetime.