Upset redhead boy has back to camera.


I Want My Kids to Feel Sad

Oct 2, 2019

My son started playing hockey only two years ago. He thrives in his house league team, yet this year he wanted to try out for competitive hockey. Though I wasn’t keen on the idea of adding more hockey to our schedule, I figured there was no harm in letting him take a shot.

After the try-outs, he waited anxiously for the results while we continually refreshed the page until it was finally time for him to go to bed. He’d been asleep for awhile when we saw that he had been cut from the team. My heart sunk; his dad wondered out loud how he was going to tell him.

I imagined finding that coach and kicking him right in the shin. Instead, I went to sleep with a heavy heart knowing that in the morning my husband would deliver the bad news.

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Nothing makes me happier than seeing my kids smile. When they are happy, I’m happy. Their sadness can cause an ache so deep in my heart. Our job as parents is to protect our kids — it’s one of the first promises we make our babies.

The funny thing about life is that sometimes it can gut punch us so hard that we can barely breathe.

Our job as parents is not to give our kids the easiest, most obstacle-free life possible.

As humans, we know this. By the time we’ve reached adulthood, we’ve experienced a gut punch or two. Yet as parents, we are terrified of allowing our kids to experience any sort of pain regardless of how little, or how big. In reality, it’s about us more than it is about them. We don’t want to see our kids hurt. We don’t want to witness their tears. So, we do what we think we are supposed to do: we protect them.

The truth is, that’s not really our job.

Our job as parents is not to give our kids the easiest, most obstacle-free life possible. Our job is to do our best to raise good humans. As much as we want to shelter our kids from the darkness that can be found in the world, at some point in time they will happen upon adversity. And how will they navigate those hardships if we’ve never allowed them to develop the skills?

When did parents become so afraid of letting their kids feel uncomfortable?

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If our kids are hungry, we produce an array of snacks from the lunch bags that we’ve packed. If they have to go to the washroom, we stop everything to find a bathroom right away. If they’re cold, we give them our sweaters even when we’ve warned them to pack their own.

We don’t learn what we are capable of from always having things go our way.

Parents will go out of our way to ensure that their kids don’t fail. We bring forgotten lunch bags to school, we help finish school projects in the final hours and we race around searching for lost library books.

None of this is helping them. In fact, it’s hurting them.

Constantly saving the day may make our lives easier, and help us feel like better parents, but it’s not teaching our kids to be accountable for themselves.

We don’t learn what we are capable of from always having things go our way. We build perseverance by failing, by falling down, by feeling defeat and by doing things we didn’t think we could do.

When my daughter wanted to audition for our city’s performance of The Nutcracker, I almost discouraged her from trying. I didn’t think she was going to get a part. But I told myself this would be a great life lesson for her — you don’t always win, even when you work really hard and give it your all. She showed me by getting a part in the performance. How wrong would I have been to allow my own fears to discourage her from trying?

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What message do we send our kids when we shelter them from hardships? Do they feel loved and cared for? Or do they think we aren’t confident in their abilities?

I wonder if our kids feel as though we have no faith in them?

I can’t make these struggles disappear, but I can help my kids recognize that they have the ability to overcome hard things.

The morning after learning my son was cut from the hockey team, I walked into our room where his dad was giving him the bad news. His head hung low, I wrapped my arms around him and whispered, “I’m sorry.” I didn’t use my words to try to take the pain away. I didn’t try to justify the coach’s decision — I didn’t even tell him that he could try again next year. I simply stood beside him and let him know I was there, and allowed him to feel sad.

We have to allow our kids to feel sad.

I can’t protect my kids from every bad feeling that may come their way. I don’t want to. They are going to fail. They are going to have their hearts broken. They are going to be passed over for the promotion they worked so hard for, or not get the job after thinking they nailed the interview. Life is filled with hard things: divorces, illnesses, death. Being cut from a hockey team is small potatoes when it comes to life’s disappointments.

I can’t make these struggles disappear, but I can help my kids recognize that they have the ability to overcome hard things.

By dinner time, my son was at peace with not having made the higher level team. He had brushed it off. He spoke eagerly of playing for his house league team. I took comfort in knowing that he had picked himself up.

Our kids are capable of so much if we just give them a shot to prove it to us. They are tougher than we like to think. In reality, it’s actually us who need to toughen up.

Article Author Natalie Romero
Natalie Romero

Natalie’s passion for writing was reignited as she blogged her way through the pain of her son’s health issues and NICU stay. She is the wife of the world’s greatest foot rubber and mother to an amazingly loyal little boy and a fiercely independent little girl. An HR professional by day and a freelance writer and blogger by night, Natalie is getting a crash course in the juggling act that is the life of a working mother, though she does occasionally drop a ball or two! After spending much of her life trying to be perfect she has learned to rock her shortcomings and is not afraid to admit when she’s failed. This parenting thing can be tough and Natalie believes the best way to survive it is by keeping it real and by leaning on your tribe.

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