As a mom, I am opposed to pouting for pouting's sake. I don't believe in pouting in order to get your way. After all, it never worked for me, so why should I allow it to work for my kids?
But in spite of that, there is something about the "poochie lip disease" that can really tug at your heart. Remember when your kids were just a couple of weeks old? You might be staring at them, studying their perfect little features. And just that quickly, the lower lip trembles and pooches out. Suddenly, they've gone into full-blown wailing, complete with waving fists and squirming bodies. And their problem might be as simple as being hungry, or being too tired.
When they're older, they may no longer burst into frequent tears and wails, but you get to where you can see the signs that something is wrong. You get to where you can read them a little bit. The two-year-old that's cranky or whiny. The energetic six-year-old that acts listless and tired when they're getting sick. You read the signs and you help take care of the problem.
When the kids get older than that, it's not so easy. My fifteen-year-old is a pretty happy guy. He mostly takes things as they come and is pretty agreeable in most cases. On Saturday Terry took our three oldest boys to a neighboring church that had a big Game Feast. They use it as a means of outreach every year and have had many saved during this event. They also have wild game at the dinner and archery and BB shooting contests. Last year Luke won the archery tournament and received a couple of arrows mounted on plaques. They hang on his wall now. For months he's been looking forward to this event and the opportunity to win something once again.
Saturday night they got home and I asked him how it went. He gave me an overly bright smile and said it was great. But there was pain radiating from his eyes.
Come to find out things were set up differently this year. He was in a different age bracket in the competition. There was a much longer process to actually qualify to compete in the contest.
And he hadn't won anything.
I told him I was sorry things hadn't worked out. He said it was okay, gave me another false smile and went to take a shower.
I hurt for him. I wanted to make it better. I wanted to give him some sort of a prize anyway. He'd looked forward to this for so long and he was so disappointed. It didn't help when his younger brother walked in with a ribbon for winning in the younger age division. Paul also had a really cool metallic rainbow pocket knife that he won. I enthused with Paul for winning, but I also wanted to make it up to Luke.
But I couldn't.
Unfortunately, Luke had to learn one of life's lessons last Saturday night. You don't always win. No one wins every time. He was a good sport about it, but the disappointment was still there. Sometimes life has disappointments.
I desperately want to always make things better for my children. But if I shield them from all pain now, if I "make things better" to the point that my children never know disappointment or pain, how are they going to survive when they become adults? I truly believe that many parents are crippling their children by trying to always "make things fair". Life is not fair. How much better to teach them to deal with disappointments than to try to convince them disappointments don't exist?
It was a lot easier when they were smaller. I could make it all better by feeding them, changing them, or just cuddling them for a time. But when they get bigger, thermometers and bandaids don't always make everything all right.
Luke survived Saturday night's disappointment. He had a good attitude about it, he hasn't brooded over it. He's looking forward to the next event in life. And next year he'll be at the Game Feast again. Next year he'll compete. But whether he wins or not, he'll be a stronger, more mature person because of this year's experience.
Growing up is painful sometimes. And I think sometimes it truly is harder for the parents than for the children.