Part of being a parent is watching your kids experience painful moments.  Sometimes the pain is theirs alone, other times they are witness to the pain of others.  It is natural to want to jump in and solve the problem, or to take action that will, we hope, erase the pain.  We might want to offer advice, or flat out order our kids to handle the situation in a certain way.  But, not allowing them to handle the situation on their own robs our kids of valuable learning and growth.  We can certainly offer a listening ear, and we can advise them if they ask for our input, but the real growth will come when they deal with the pain themselves.

The softball coach at Huh’s high school called a softball meeting with all returning players during the winter to announce that she needs to build a team, and with nine returning seniors, she would need to make some cuts during tryouts to allow some younger girls a spot on the team, otherwise she wouldn’t have a team in subsequent years.  Though the girls understood the wisdom behind the announcement, they weren’t happy about it. 

Tryouts were last week.  Huh was a little nervous.  So was I.  After the second day of tryouts Huh found out that she’d made the team, but one of her favorite teammates, “M”, hadn’t.  What would have normally been a time of celebration for us was much more subdued.  Huh was relieved she was still on the team, but she was also feeling the pain of her friend.  The two girls sent texts back and forth that night.  “M” vented about how much it hurt to be cut from the team her senior year and how unfair she thought it was.  Huh was the listening “ear.”  There was also some venting about another teammate, “T”, who would be returning, but had been the cause of some contention on the team in the past.  It concerned me.  When I tried to caution Huh about getting caught up in the drama she let me know in no uncertain terms that she was handling the situation.  I backed off.

The day after tryouts Huh and one of the younger teammates saw “M” in the hall at school.  There was some hugging and crying as both girls told “M” how much they would miss having her on the team.  Later, after practice, I asked Huh how her day had gone.  She told me about hugging “M” in the hall, and then she told me that she and “T” had been joking around during practice and had made the rest of the team laugh.  It would appear that my daughter is determined to not take sides.  I hope she will be able to remain neutral as the season moves forward.

In a family with six teenagers there are always situations that call for sensitivity to the feelings of others.  I’ve recently watched Huh and Mack deal with an uncomfortable situation that arose unexpectedly.  When I threw a surprise birthday party for Huh last month, I had hopes that new friendships would be formed between kids from the various groups of friends she hangs out with.  I had no idea that Mack would end up catching the attention of one of the boys at the party. 

A few days after the party the boy asked Mack to Prom.  This created an uncomfortable situation between sisters.  Mack was well aware that Huh liked this boy.  We shared a whispered conversation in the kitchen.  “Mom, what should I do?”

As a parent, I was feeling for both girls.  Mack, of course, wanted to go to Prom.  What girl doesn’t?  But, she didn’t want her sister hurting or mad at her.  And Huh was feeling the sting of having a boy she liked ask her younger sister out.  As a parent I had to walk a delicate line.  “Has Huh said anything to you?”

“She just said that she should probably get used to having her friends ask her sister out.”

“Did she sound mad when she said it?”

“No, not really.”

“Did she sound sad?”

“No.  She just sort of said it.”  Mack shrugged her shoulders.  “I can’t tell how she’s feeling.  Mom, what should I do?  This is so awkward!”

Still wanting to stay out of it unless emotions got out of control I said, “I don’t know what to tell you.  I guess just go with what you feel is best.”  Mack shot me a look of panic.  I’m sure she wanted me to tell her what to do.  If I had told her to tell the guy no then I could have been the “bad guy.”  My mom says I can’t go with you.  And if I had told her to go ahead and say yes, I would have still been the bad guy.  Mom told me to say yes.  Take it up with her!

The next day I tried to get a feel for what Huh was thinking.  “So, Mack is a little worried about this whole Prom thing.”  Huh just shrugged her shoulders, but didn’t say anything.  I continued, “She feels really awkward.  She’s not even sure she wants to go with him.”

“I guess I should just get used to my friends asking my little sister out.” 

“Are you mad?”

“I don’t know.  No.  I don’t think so.”  She looked at me and continued, “He just asked me out for this Friday.”

“What?”

“Yeah.  He’s taking my little sister to Prom, but he wants to go out with me on Friday.” (High school boys can be so clueless!)

“I see.  So, are you going to go with him?”

“I don’t think so.  I’ve sort of lost interest.”

In the end Huh solved the problem for Mack.  It was Huh who came up with a creative way for Mack to answer the boy for Prom, and she even went with her sister to do it.  Mack is now able to talk excitedly about going to Prom, and Huh is able to listen and comment positively.  And I simply sigh with relief.

There have been other times I’ve stepped back and allowed my kids to handle life’s hurts.  There was the time that Huh made her softball team, but Squid didn’t make the soccer team; there was the time one of Huh’s friends accused her of things that weren’t true; there was the time Yawlin had an embarrassing moment playing baseball and another time some of his friends shunned him; Hoob is currently walking to school alone every morning because she refuses to take sides between feuding friends. 

Life hands our kids problems, pain, embarrassment, and awkward moments.  As a general rule, it is wise to stay out of it and let our kids learn from whatever comes their way.  It isn’t an easy thing to do, but in the long run, the growth that results is worth it.

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