La La How The Life Goes On

Tough Tacos

Posted on: July 11, 2013

That’s the mantra here at Chez Jones. If I may respectfully suggest, some version of it should apply in your home too. I myself prefer “tough titties” but Dada gave me enough stink eye that I amended it to the above.

Follow me here. Bambina loves performing in shows, musicals, weddings and bar mitzvahs. She had done about three or four shows happily until the dreaded Brigadoon in which she was cast as a MAN. Well, tears, sadness, outrage ensued. Recriminations, expletives and rending of garments followed. All culminating in a Come To Jesus chat wherein I informed her that if she ever wanted to see Stage Left again she had better STFU and suck it up. That I was not going to spend the next umpteen years counseling her through various part losses and crappy attitudes toward fellw cast members who did get the parts. She was going to man the eff up and accept that sometimes she was just not going to get a part, no matter how much of her life’s desire it was. That, I decreed, was the only way acting would work in this family. You want to do it? Accept that it’s not personal and vow to be tough-minded about it. Also vow to be the best oompa freakin loompa they’ve ever seen so that next time they WILL see you as Veruca, because you will have demonstrated teamwork, effort, commitment, good attitude–and you’ll have been studying the girl who got Veruca to see what she can teach you. Any whining? Your show biz career will be over faster than you can say Gretchen Mol.

You know what? Bambina got it. Immediately. And it’s been sunny skies, even if no leads, ever since. So this summer she finally got cast in her breakout role: The Artful Dodger. Dreams have come true, life is grand, she is on top of the world. However her friend did not get her hoped-for part. In order to ensure parts for all participants they switched the songs up a little, so her friend is singing I’d Do Anything, which is usually a Dodger song. Fantastic. Except. Instead of giving her obviously-disappointed kid a Tough Tacos But Sing The Hell Out Of Your Song, Kid, the mom told the child that there are “two Dodgers” in the play, and it’s kind of like she is also The Dodger. What?!!

Not to be an ahole stage mother, but There Is One Dodger. The kid who is the Dodger worked very hard to get that part. Sang her lungs out, thought about how the costume could enhance the character. Did the work. And now she feels confused because her friend’s mom is saying its not really her part. What?! Why are you minimizing another child to make your child feel better? This is life. Life is not always fun or fair. Trying to pretend that the sky is green so your kid won’t cry doesn’t make the sky, in fact, green. It just makes your kid less able to handle reality.

Another example with Baby Sister. She has a pretty sizable scar on her chest from her heart surgery. I found out today that she has been stressed out by kids asking about it (now that swimsuits show it). We arrived at school and one kid was teed up already: what is that thing on her chest? Will it go away? What’s going on there? Poor Baby Sister, I realized, has been getting this question with no idea how to answer. So I said all nonchalantly: “oh, that’s where the doctor fixed her heart. Your heart has different rooms in it. Rooms have walls between them. Her wall had a little hole that the doctor closed, and that is where he did it. No big deal.” Well, you could feel the air pressure around my little one lift by 3,000 psi because her body untensed and she did that Nya-Nya voice to say, “yeah! No big deal!” The kid went, “oh, okay!” And went on his way. My wee one smiled and skipped away. And I found myself relieved that I had decided against ignoring the boy’s question in the name of preserving my child from hurt.

Yes, I want to eradicate anything or anyone who might hurt my child. But you and I both know that impertinently curious kids are here to stay. As are racist fucks, inadvertently rude doofuses, nasty mean people and everyone in between. We cannot eradicate them. All we can do us raise kids with the mental toughness to withstand them.

Mental toughness is the secret sauce in my parenting recipe. You can be richer, smarter, faster, cooler than my kids. But if my kids can get punched in the face 15 times and get up 16, then my kids are going to succeed where you will fail. Every. Single. Time.

My dad always told me I was “made of sterner stuff.” I’m not sure when it morphed from Embarrassing Shakespearean Dadism to something I actually believed and carried with me, but it did. And I want my girls to have the same internal anchor. The unbreakable, unshakeable knowledge that This Is Not How This Ends, that they shall endure and excel and rise above, all evidence to the contrary. How do I do that? Well, first and foremost, we deal in reality. Not how we wish things were, but how things are. We accept reality, THEN we can set out to change it, improve it, beat it. But we never avoid it. If Bambina doesn’t get a part, I do feel for her. But pretending she kind of got the part doesn’t help her at all. When Baby Sister has to deal with scar questions, I feel for her. My upper middle class instincts scream at me to get my 4 year old some plastic surgery to prevent these questions. The working class Scottish immigrant in me smacks my face with the truth that if having a scar from the best cardiac surgeon in the world at the greatest children’s hospital in the world is this kid’s biggest challenge in life, then forgive 99% of the earth for not shedding a tear. Right?

I can’t promise that instilling mental toughness (or being the kid having it instilled) is easy or fun or even remotely pleasant some days. But I can guarantee that if you really truly do care about your child’s happiness, success and general well-being, you will make life a little harder for her now so that it’s easier later.

The Artful Dodger himself said it best: If there should chance to be some harder days, empty larder days, why grouse? Always a chance to find somebody to foot the bill, then the drinks are on the house!


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