The Burden of Never Disappointing Your Child

How do you deal with the burden of never disappointing your child? A couple weeks ago, I almost bought sparklers for my girls and then I remembered that they could be dangerous. Sure, I played with sparklers every 4th of July but why take the chance that my girls might get burned? Isn’t it my job to make sure they are always safe? Besides, the Big Guy put his foot down on sparklers, a long time ago. No sparklers for the girls so I put them back down and walked away. But it felt wrong. Why can’t they have sparklers? I loved sparklers. I survived.

There are things I did as a child that we’d never allow our daughters to do today. For instance, I stayed out until the street lights came on playing with my friends, completely unsupervised and survived. I walked to school alone with my little brother, when I was 7 (of course, later I found out that my mom was ninja stalking us all the way). I played with sparklers and lit firecrackers. We jumped in pools and beaches without floaties and ate food before checking labels.

There were no cellphones to keep constant contact, like the tether of a virtual umbilical cord. There were no seatbelt laws or car seat laws. My dad used to give me rides on the crossbar of his ten-speed. I learned to ride a bike, roller skate and ride a skateboard the hard way, without a helmet or pads.

My parents didn’t worry that I was watching too much television, playing too many video games or eating too much because I ate when I was hungry and I played outside as much as I could because what could be better than playing outside? Nothing!

My parents did need to spy on my texts, emails and search history because they trusted me and I lived in the real world not the cyber world. All my friends lived within walking distance and those I met on vacations, we stayed in contact by writing letters. Life involved meeting, talking to and interacting with actual people. My parents knew that.

There were no tantrums or eye rolling because I was raised with respect. I had daily chores. My parents weren’t afraid that I would break or they might offend me if I was asked to do my part an in return, I earned privileges like walking to the park with my friend. I played sports that were competitive and I knew grades were earned by hard work.

Sure, sometimes it sucked not getting what I wanted but I learned at a very early age that to get what you want in this world, you have to work hard. You have to make sacrifices and no, it didn’t kill me.

I’ve spent my entire parenting life trying to make sure that my kids had the best of everything; everything I never had. I wanted their memories to be filled with happy times and recollections of all the things I did right. I wanted to eliminate any pain or disappointment but that’s impossible and impractical. I wanted them to survive childhood but I don’t want that anymore. I want them to enjoy childhood. I want them to thrive at it.

The other day, I was thinking what a magical childhood I am providing for my girls. It’s not perfect but they have never wanted for anything. I’ve raised them to believe that they can have everything if they are willing to work for it but I’m not sure they even can comprehend what that means because I have encapsulated them in a happy bubble where life is easy and everything is given to them. They are living in utopia but is this really the best thing I can do for my children? I don’t think so.

You’ve heard the Longfellow quote, into each life a little rain must fall? I’m starting to believe that maybe we do need to experience a little hardship in life to truly appreciate the gifts. Life has come so easy for my girls because they have always had me as their advocate, and that will never change, but I don’t think they get what it really feels like to accomplish something on their own; to really want something, to go after it and to enjoy the moment of victory…of earning it on their own, of true success. That makes me feel like I’m failing as a parent.

What do you think? How do we give our children the childhood we think they deserve without taking away their appreciation for the simple things in life, like sparklers?

How do you deal with the burden of never disappointing your child?

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Comments (21)

I think you’re on the right track here, Debi, in the realization that you’re having. When we don’t give our kids opportunities to learn how to appropriately navigate through disappointment in life, especially while we’re around to help, we’re depriving them of training in some of the skills they’re going to need to thrive. When they experience disappointment, all the while being parented with love and compassion, we’re teaching them that when hard times come, we will do everything in our power to support them, and be there for them. Life really IS full of disappointment, but then, it’s full of beauty, and hope, and joy. Learning how to deal with, and then even reframe disappointment is an important skill. It helps us learn how to look at things from a different perspective than our initial first reaction (which is usually fairly self-centered, for most of us). You as a parent, I am sure, model how to look for the good in things that are hard.

If our kids never have to work for anything they will find it harder to appreciate what they have. If they never fail they’ll never learn how to overcome it.

I hate the disappointment, but I hate the idea of crippling them more.

I deal with it by not setting myself up to have that burden. At some point, I’ll disappoint my kids. I’m only human. I just try to keep that in perspective relative to the big picture. It’s a very freeing mindset to have.

In my mind, I know this but somewhere between my mind and my heart, something gets lost in translation and then I start freaking out that I’m doing all wrong.

I really try to NOT overthink things. Are the kids alive? Check. Do they know how much they’re loved? Check. If those are good, everything’s good.

I want to be more like you. I try to remind myself that as long as no one is dead, we are all good but sometimes, I over analyze every single mom choice I make and I’m sure I’m messing them up 🙁

It is so hard to deal with!! I know there are several times I feel like I am taking away memories for them, but at the same time it’s such a different time then when we were younger.

I imagine this would be something I would wrestle with if I was a parent. I think it is hard to do!

I just love this post. I struggle so much with trying to give my boys a simple childhood yet keeping up with all of the modern conveniences of our current day. Thankfully my kids would still pick sparklers over video games–hoping to keep that up as long as possible!

Things are so different now when we were younger, but my husband and I are trying very hard not to be over protective.

I am over protective with my niece. But i let her enjoy what she wants with guidance. I like her to play outside with kids than stay at home with gadgets.

There are so many things I did as a kid I would definitely think twice letting my kids do. I think if the kids want to try sparklers why not. You can have them wear gloves to help protect their hands or even watch you do some neat designs with them.

With the world like it is we have to change how we parent vs how we were raised. I am really protective and really try to focus on the positive.

Disappointment is inevitable, but we can teach them how to be strong, accept it, change it, learn from it and move on! We give our kids the best that we can and that is truly the best we can do!

I don’t have kids so I don’t have to worry about this on a daily basis. But I am an aunt and disappointing kids is hard but if it keeps them safe then it’s worth it.

We are really our own worst critics. I don’t think as a mom we’ll ever be doing enough – loved your honest words here!

I honestly think that kids need to have disappointments in their early years. It kind of teaches them that they don’t get everything they want. And if they want something, then they have to work to earn it. I try to teach my kids that hard work pays off.

If we didn’t let them ever be disappointed then they wouldn’t be prepared for real life. Obviously we aren’t doing it on purpose but it happens.

I disappoint my kids all the time. I think that if I never did that, they would grow up without understanding disappointment. So far my kids are turning out to be really great young adults, so whatever I did worked!

I cannot agree more. If things were always easy I don’t think we’d have nearly as much appreciation for life.

[…] She came out of camp with a stern look on her face and I knew something was wrong but she was quiet; that scary quiet that people get right before they go postal. I inquired, she snipped, as tired tweens who just danced for 8 hours are known to do and then we got to the car and the tears came. The tired frustration that comes with working hard and not feeling like you got to where you wanted to be frustration. The feeling of failure that no mom ever wants to see on her child’s face but is completely necessary to make her a functioning member of society. […]

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