I'm not your typical "worrier mom." I don't hover over my kids at the playground, first-aid kit in hand. I don't obsess about disease or drugs knocking on our door. And despite all the horrible stuff I see on TV each night, I don't wring my hands in fear.
But I do have my share of worrying—just the kind that has to do with my children's resilience in the face of life's smaller, less dramatic cruelties. I especially worry about my daughter.
Now 8, my daughter is a smart, kind, sensitive girl with a quirky sense of humor. I fondly refer to her as Drama Girl and believe me she earns that title with opera-style singing and eye-rolling theatrics on almost a daily basis. I've learned to embrace her creativity (albeit begrudgingly at times), but underneath it I see an innate fragility, a person who sometimes struggles to cope with and move past situations. Like many things in parenting, these times always seem to come when I least expect it.
One time was last summer when I took the kids to see a "dancing water" display at a large fountain in the city. Drama Girl was watching the show up close with her brother and cousins, enjoying the cool mist and splashes in the summer heat. During the grand finale, she watched the water shoot high into the air—then fall on her and the other children, drenching them. Stunned and sopping wet, she stood there and began to cry. She put her head down on the fountain ledge, her tears turning to sobs. I yelled at her to get away from the water, but she didn't move. I coaxed her to come over to me, but she just sobbed harder, her body shaking. My reaction went from being puzzled to embarrassed to annoyed because I didn't understand why my "big kid" was acting so dramatic—like a big baby—in front of the crowd. But then something in me clicked and I realized Drama Girl couldn't help herself.
I ran over and carried her away from the fountain and curious stares. Minutes later, I was still trying everything I could think of to calm her down: reasoning, sharp "snap out of it!" words and hugs. Finally, between gulping sobs, my daughter told me something that's stayed with ever since. She said she couldn't calm down, that she didn't know how.
Her meltdowns have become less frequent as she's grown older, but she hasn't outgrown them completely. Things are better because we talk about these situations and her reactions afterwards, and how she might cope with them more effectively the next time around. Inevitably, I end up apologizing for losing my cool out of fear and frustration along the way.
I want to do what I can to help Drama Girl deal with the world's hardships, big and small. But no matter how many books or articles I read or how many people we talk to, I know she'll have to learn to nurture herself and make mistakes—and that she'll likely get hurt in the process. And like any parent, that's what worries me the most.