Recently, my 7 year old wasn’t invited to the birthday party of a (supposedly) dear friend. When I discovered this, I was devastated for her. It didn’t help that I was hormonal that particular day, but I went off like a firecracker in the privacy of our shitty Mitsi that afternoon. Embarked on a monologue of “you’re better than this”, “you deserve so much more than a friend like that”, “you deserve”, “you deserve”, “you deserve”. And she does “deserve” better than the ambivalence of this particular friend, but then I pulled my head out of my arse and realised that 1) this friend had the right to invite whomever she wanted to her party, 2) we don’t always get (nor should we always get) what we deserve and 3) this was not my childhood.
I had gone kamikaze on her (perceived) rejection, whilst Scout sat in the back of the car, stoic and rich with concessions. “It’s OK mum. I understand. She could only invite 3 kids to her party. I don’t mind.”
My heart broke for her. Smashed into tiny splinters of rehashed rejection that was all my own. She was being brave. She had already sucked it up and moved on. A 7 year old. Braver than her own mother. In that momentary scene, you would have easily mistaken who was the child and who was the parent.
I realised that I’ve brought a lot of my own childhood baggage to the parenting table. When I was about 9, a similar thing happened to me. My so-called BFF didn’t invite me to her (large) birthday party. I remember asking my mum if I could buy her a birthday present to give to her at school because, after all she was my friend. I remember my own mum going off like a firecracker, not at me, but as an impassioned response to the naivety of a 9 year-old who had just had her arse kicked by a bitchy kid and her cliquey minions. I didn’t feel brave at the time, just a bit stupid. But I put on that indifferent face as I processed it and the next time it happened (as it inevitably did), my armour was just that bit stronger.
We can hurt our mortal bodies, wince through the agonising rush of injury [be brave!]. I’ve had my share of physical torment and have smiled through the fingers of pain [put on a brave face!], but to me there’s nothing more devastating than seeing my own kids going through the same rejections that I did when I was young [I have to be brave for them].
It is my job to be there for my girls and pick up their wounded hearts as they navigate through life. And part of that is accepting that they won’t always be invited to parties, they won’t always be picked by the popular boy (or girl), they won’t always get the job that they covet. The resilience they are building is an imperative part of how they will deal with hurt and rejection right throughout their lives. But I feel their every disappointment acutely as I try to stop the irritating detritus of my own childhood memories from nattering over my shoulder (for the record, it is not a good look, shaking detritus from your shoulder when talking to your kids. They tend to look at you strangely). These neuroses don’t belong to my children.
Some days I am brave for my kids. Others, not so much. And there are times when the strong armour that I built in childhood unravels and cracks in the face of the same things happening to my kids. I don’t want it for them, but they need it, in a way, to become strong. I’m preparing myself for the times when my childrens’ hearts crumble, heal, swell with love, pride. Rinse. Repeat. Rinse. Repeat. Being brave for my kids when I just want to cry for them.
My parenting journey is just beginning.
Linking up with My Mummy Daze for “Stories of Me” and Mama Grace for FYBF.