When Our Kids Experience Pain & Disappointment

AYSO (American Youth Soccer Organization) believes that every kid who wants to play soccer should be able to play soccer. I second that! Team sports do so much for kids (and parents). However, after spending years of my life on soccer fields watching kids play soccer and their parents’ veins pop out of their fiery foreheads, I have wondered if kids may be learning more about how they do not want to behave than about how to play soccer!

(That vein popping passion provides so much fodder for my athletically challenged self but being the adult I am, I will move on. I think it is really super duper dumb that at AYSO games we were not allowed to keep score!!! REALLY?! Everyone in their right mind was keeping score. Isn’t that why we play the game?)

Some well-intentioned individuals at AYSO probably spent hours debating theories about failure, pain, self-esteem and healthy childhood development. I second all of that!

I am guessing that they sounded pretty similar to the debates/discussions I had with some of my uber conservative friends during the years when we were all doing our best to raise strong healthy kids.

I was not the mom who had the gifts or passion for home schooling her young in a safe and controlled environment optimized for learning.

I was the mom who was doing her best to raise strong healthy kids and busy out of her gourd building several businesses with her husband in a effort to help bring economic development to our struggling community. (I realize that sounds a little martyr-ish.. in hindsight, we were all just trying to do our best at what we felt called to do.)

Plus we made our kids work super long hours as models for our home decor company 😉
It took me a long time to let go of my resentment towards my home schooling mom friend who straight up told me that working outside of the home was not God’s best for me or my young. (In the spirit of full disclosure, I wanted to mess up her perfect hair and shorten the hem on her dress right there in front of God and everyone. Can’t you just see the veins popping out on my forehead?)

We are funny and complicated creatures aren’t we?

We all want to get it right when it comes to the big things in our lives like our kids. We go to great lengths to protect and nurture them into who they were created to be. This is good. This is parenting. Naturally, we want our kids to be self-assured, smart, strong, talented and healthy people. I second that! (In fact, call me crazy but that’s exactly what I want to be!)

We didn’t obviously didn’t have time to cut the grass… these darlings would have been illiterate if their education was depending on moi!
I have felt pain and experienced disappointment on so many occasions. I often feel so much less than self-assured. I wasn’t the Valedictorian or the homecoming queen. I quit track after several weeks of training before I was officially cut. A tall guy in junior high told me that I looked like I was from the Planet of the Apes (serious wounding here). The mean girls in junior high were mean girls AND I didn’t get boobs until I turned 50.

Question: Where on earth were my parents?

Answer: They were trying to figure out how to feed, clothe and love us. They were more often than not home at the end of each day when we were. We ate dinner together, talked about our day and what had happened in each of our respective worlds. They listened to us and did their best to engage us when we were adolescent sullen quiet (topped off with an occasional eye roll, I’m sure).

We talked for weeks about how my little brother should deal with the bully who kept torturing him. My Dad (the pastor) finally told him to fight the kid. “Pick a fight. Get in the first punch- just make sure you do it in the hallway right in front of the Principal’s Office.”

Not exactly what the folks at AYSO might have recommended (but straight from a man of the cloth) and at the same time exactly what my well-intentioned home schooling friends never wanted their children to have to deal with. I second that! What parent wants that for their child?

I know that today is a different day. I know that bullying has been taken to horrendous levels. So hang in here with me. I am not an advocate of picking fights.

When our kids were experiencing pain and disappointment in the game of friendship, sports or life, I would first remind myself that this was not the end of the world.

There she is- pooka shells & all! Right in the middle of becoming her wonderful self in the fourth grade!
When veins began popping out of my forehead and I felt like picking a fight with the mean girl in my daughter’s fourth grade class (of course, in front of the Principal’s Office), I found myself needing to check in with my own tender spots of pain and disappointment if I had any chance of getting clarity about what was best for our daughter. (Thank God for my linear cool headed Swedish husband.)

Was her spirit growing stronger or wilting? Was she developing empathy for any others being stung by the queen bee? Was she able to keep learning in that environment? Were the adults around her tuned into what was going on? Should she stay in that class? Should she stay at that school?

She finished fourth grade at that school. We thought it best to give her a fresh start in fifth grade at a bigger school, but in her fourth grade year she learned about so much more than multiplication.

She developed amazing empathy for and sensitivity towards kids who were marginalized because she knew what is was like to be told you weren’t allowed inside the cool kids club. It was a painfully hard and precious lesson.

By the time she reached high school, she was brave enough to comfort and pray with a shamed and teary girl when her Dad’s criminal life hit the front page and kids were less than sympathetic.

A courageous and kind hearted beauty in her senior year of high school.
That awful fourth grade year (from hell) had become a critical puzzle piece in making her into a strong, brave, tender, empathetic and amazing young woman. Does she still have hidden wounds from the hard knocks of growing up? She does. So do I. And I suspect we are not alone.

I suspect those tender places still full of pain and disappointment in each of our precious hearts are just waiting for the opportunity to teach us about more than multiplication.

I have come to believe pain and disappointment are usually an opportunity to push through the hard stuff and become a stronger, wiser more complete version of ourselves.

Pain and disappointment have the potential to positively change our perspective about people, life and what really matters.

Pain and disappointment are our permission slip to bust out of the things that threaten to keep us being small people who can only look out for ourselves.

Pain and disappointment only win when out of fear we avoid it at all costs and end up putting so much armor on our hearts that we stop risking at friendship, love and life.

In the end, pain and disappointment will come knocking on the door at some point for our kids (it certainly has for us, right?)

I don’t know about you but I’d rather my kids feel the joy of taking the shot on goal and the disappointment of missing it and then learning to gather themselves and muster the courage to take the shot the next time!


PS My brother did deck the bully in front of the Principal’s Office. The bully became more than amicable and often made sure he sat next to my brother on the bus ride home. Go figure.

PSS Please know that I realize there are kids who have had enormous set backs and are born with incredible challenges that require professional help. Often, these kids are actually the greatest example of strength and courage! These musings are meant to encourage the rest of us to learn that most of the pain and disappointments we experience in life, our kids included, are an invitation to stretch and grow into strong and amazing people who give others the courage to do the same.


soul food

Numb the dark and you numb the light.  Brene Brown Daring Greatly

If we do not transform our pain, we will most assuredly transmit it. Richard Rohr

Who we are and how we engage the world are much stronger predictors of how our children will do than what we know about parenting.  Brene Brown, Daring Greatly