What I want my daughter to know about resilience

Two weeks into the already tumultuous school year that is 2020, my three-year-old came home and announced that a friend was laughing at her. 

It’s been hard to watch my youngest child begin preschool during a pandemic. There are more questions than can fit into her little brain and she’s had a tough time leaving her best mommy at home (her words, I swear). So, weary with conversation that lay ahead, I sighed, and continued to cautiously probe.

Wanting to make sure I heard her correctly, I asked, “Your friend is laughing at you?” I tried to keep judgement and emotion out of my voice. 

Don’t overreact.

“Yes,” she nodded emphatically. “Every day at school she laughs at me.” Her tone was even and matter of fact.

My chest went tight with motherly rage as she confirmed what I thought I’d heard. Of course I know toddlers taunt and tease as they learn to socially navigate relationships with their peers. Still, my daughter’s words hit hard.

She’s being laughed at.

How do I guide and reassure my goofy, fun loving three-year-old in an age appropriate way? How do I balance what I want to tell her with what I should tell her?

When my girls were babies my parenting concerns revolved around physical development, socialization, proper nutrition and overall health and safety. I read all the books, blogs, tracked milestones and hung onto every word my pediatrician rattled off. Simply put, I just wanted them to be okay (as defined by the American Academy of Pediatrics that is).

This moment with my daughter catapulted me into a new phase. I was officially leaving “survival mode” and entering “tough issues parenting.”

My instincts were to scoop her up and tell her she’s perfect. But I have learned enough to know that coddling my children when faced with adversity won’t serve them well in the long run (see, I read the books). While I may have almost had to physically restrain myself from squeezing her…I managed to hold back. 

I knew her three-year-old brain couldn’t comprehend it, but the lesson I wanted to share–and someday will–is that I believe resilience comes down to two things: 

The ability to

  1. Reflect
  2. Move on

I believe moments of reflection evolve into self awareness. Both are crucial to bouncing back from things that negatively affect us. Your thoughts and feelings are valid. It’s important to acknowledge how an interaction made you feel. Be aware of how you react and respond. Once you’ve taken the time to reflect, don’t dwell (here’s where I need to take my own advice). 

Give credit to the moment, FEEL, then MOVE ON.

Someone made you feel crappy? You cried? Did you eventually stop? Yes? Great. Now, move on.

You felt embarrassed? Then you got defensive? Would you do that again? No? Good. Now, move on.

You’re angry? You responded with hurtful words? Was that a good idea? No? Okay. Now, move on.

The resounding lesson of my youth was it doesn’t matter what other people think of you. It matters what YOU think of you. But I don’t think that’s entirely true. Simply NOT caring what people think about you doesn’t equate to resilience. You should expect interactions with others to affect you. Even if logic tells you it doesn’t matter, you’re human. Of course it affects you. 

Give credit to the moment, FEEL, then MOVE ON.

As a mother, seeing the raw vulnerability of my child— that I can do nothing about— is terrible. Instinct is to protect, though I know experiencing these moments will eventually serve her well. After I mentally played out this life lesson I finally followed up with, “How did it make you feel when your friend was teasing you?”

Her little brow furrowed as she cocked her head in confusion. “No, Mommy. No one teased me. My friend laughs at me every day! Because I’m FUNNY! I love making my friends laugh!”

Her face broke into a smile and she jumped into the air to emphasize this sentiment. 

“Silly Mommy!” She belly laughed at the idea of correcting me, pigtails swaying behind her as she bounded out of the room.

I stood stunned, trying to find the words once my brain made the connection. 

Ohhhhhh.

What now?

Relief? 

Fear. I think fear.

We are in so much trouble.

2 thoughts on “What I want my daughter to know about resilience

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