Everyone has disappointments. It’s a part of life and sometimes those disappointments can offer us many learning experiences.
Or, at least, that’s the little Hallmark-coated lie we tell ourselves after the fact.
We can handle those disappointments a little bit better as adults. We tell ourselves that there’s a reason things happen, and that reason will reveal itself later and we may even be glad in retrospect.
Again – lie.
We justify that for every door that closes, another one opens and choke down some cheesecake and try to not make those disappointments be as a big of a deal as they are.
Another bunch of fat, hairy lies.
“Are you OK?” Mama will ask.
“Yup,” I lie.
Even over the phone, Mama can hear my eyes watering as they do when I try to tell a fib.
“Um hmm. I don’t believe you,” she will say. “What’s wrong?”
I avoid her question. Sometimes you don’t want to tell your mother, even when she’s the only one you can really talk to. Even if she tells me “I told you so” or that I should have done things differently, if I tell her those secret hurts they suddenly become … real.
And mamas will want to do what mamas do best – fix things.
When I was younger, any time something didn’t happen the way I thought it would, Mama jumped to my defense, ready to go to war to vindicate her Kitten.
Things were fixed. It was a conspiracy of X-files proportions.
Did that make me feel any better? Not really; again – lies. That was Mama acting out of anger, trying to make me feel better.
Then one day, I was a lot older, maybe in college even, and something happened. I can’t even remember what it was, but I finally broke down and told Mama.
“Well, Kitten, you can’t win them all. Sometimes, you gotta be the bug.”
“The windshield. Someone’s gotta be the windshield, and someone’s gotta be the bug. Today, it was your turn to be the bug.”
Personally, I didn’t think anyone won in that analogy. The windshield ended up with a big old dead bug splatted on it but apparently being the windshield was the better of the two.
I learned I couldn’t always win them all, or get everything I wanted. No, I am not going to lie and tell you it helped develop some character depth within me, but it did maybe help me clarify what I really wanted.
But being OK with disappointment is all fine and dandy until it’s your child who’s disappointed. Then I know exactly how Mama felt as I react with my own protests of unfairness.
Cole has even learned like I did, to be weary of what he shares. He doesn’t want Mama to unleash the locusts.
That’s not how I really want to handle things with my child. I don’t want to be that parent that every time he doesn’t get his way, I strong arm someone until they cave. I’ve seen parents do that and it’s tacky, not to mention offers nothing for the child.
But here was my child, disappointed and shoulders slumped about something the other day. I was torn – do I inquire and find out what happened, or do I let him handle it on his own? He is just 8; keep in mind, I am 40 and there’s times I wish I could get Mama to handle a few battles or two.
“When he’s 40 and doesn’t like what happened at work, I won’t be able to go talk to the president of the company and complain,” I tried to rationalize my thoughts to Lamar.
“Of course you will,” he whispered. I still heard him.
But I wanted to make sure my child was OK -deep down, in the seat of his soul, that whatever had troubled him, was going to be OK.
When I had the answers I needed, I felt a sense of relief. It wasn’t going to change things, but at least I knew and could maybe help him process things.
“Are you still disappointed about how things worked out?” I asked him later.
He thought for a moment and nodded.
“You know you won’t always necessarily win everything, right? You may not always make the team, you may not always get the award you want – I believe you are capable of doing those things, but I just want you to know there may be times you don’t.”
He nodded, I could tell not liking what he was hearing. I don’t blame him.
“Have you ever not gotten something you wanted, really bad, Mama?” he asked.
“Oh Cole, that’s going to be on my tombstone,” I laughed to myself. “You know what Nennie would tell me when something like this happened?”
He shook his head. “She’d say sometimes you’re the windshield, sometimes you’re the bug.”
“What does that mean exactly?” he asked.
“It means, you are going to be just fine.”