“Not to be rude, mommy, but how long do we have to do that for?” My eight-year-old daughter Maggie asked from the backseat of the car.
Minutes before, I had explained to our three children that the previous week had been rough at work for their dad, and I encouraged them to give him a little extra support and encouragement during what was a difficult time for him. As if penciling in “Be nice to dad” in her calendar, was Maggie asking me how long we needed to keep up this sympathetic charade?
After I had finished laughing, I told Maggie that her question wasn’t rude to ask, but there was no real “finish by” date when it comes to supporting someone through a tough time. I also let her and the two other children in the car know that what daddy needs now is a calm, quiet, and clean home to relax in. Okay, I may have added that for my sake but nothing wrong with milking the cow while the teats are out, right?
Stumbles happen at every stage in life. In the early days of our kids’ first steps, there were many falls. Rather than letting the little ones cry for hours on the sidewalk or immediately picking them up, Mark and I were the “get yourself up and dust yourself off” parents. Yes, it can hurt. Yes, they might need to take a moment to cry and bleed. Yes, we will kiss the boo-boo. But unless one of their feet spontaneously separated itself from their bodies, they were expected to continue on the walk until we reached our destination.
As I repeated the “how long” conversation with family members and friends, I realized that Maggie was not asking about the length of time we would need to be supportive. Instead, I began to think that Maggie’s question reflected this sentiment: “After we kiss daddy’s boo-boo, when will he start walking again?”
Mark and I have talked endlessly to each other about raising our children with a sense of resiliency. We have personal and anecdotal examples in our lives about family members who were raised with the “poor so-and-so” mentality versus those kids with the “get yourself up” one. The children allowed to wallow in their self-pity after injuries had family members circling them like wagons as if to justify their pain. The belief that life is unfair to them became ingrained in them. It created adults who saw themselves as victims. And Mark and I are not about raising victims.
That is not to say that we are unsympathetic to physical or emotional pain that someone is going through. You can better believe that when our five-year-old son Bishop had to get stitches on his face, we held him while he cried and was scared. And you bet Bishop got ice cream after that (and after the stitches came out) because there is a difference in focusing on the injury versus an emphasis on the recovery. Even now when Bishop sees the table that he fell on he talks about the injury, but we remind him how brave he was when he got the stitches.
In between injuries and setbacks, we choose to raise our family flag (a bended knee with a scrape on it) and say our family motto “Dust Yourself Off- Quickly.” Our kids will experience many setbacks in their lives- bad days at work being just one of the joys of adulthood. Hopefully, they have the support and love of a family and friends when they get up from their fall. Because in our house, boo-boo kisses have an expiration date.