Don’t Ask For Too Many Things

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A page from A Fish Out of Water, by Helen Palmer and illustrated by P.D. Eastman

“Mommy, I want to ask for The Door, The Cymbal, and  The Train.”

BRK named the activities she would ask the teacher to do that day in our weekly music class.

“Well, maybe just ask for one thing.” I replied.

Then, I wondered about those words, hanging in the air.

BRK asked, “Why?”

Good question.

Why?  Why not ask for as many things as she wants?  I had discouraged her because when she rattled off all the things she wanted, my mind raced ahead to a place called Must Prevent Disappointment, and then shot to another place, called My Child Must Not Come Across As Demanding.

And I realized how problematic both of these ideas are.

I understand, intellectually, that my children must encounter and experience disappointment.  Yet, despite firmly embracing Cry It Out when she was a baby, and Time Outs when she was 2, now that she is 3, my emotional white knuckles feel arthritically stuck, unable to to let go, to let her be disappointed.  I think of a recent disappointment, when she asked another little girl to play and the little girl said no, and BRK kept bringing different toys over to the little girl, simply not understanding that no matter what she did, that little girl wasn’t going to play with her.  I watched the confusion on her face give way to her first inklings of rejection.  I needed a mop for the pieces of my heart.

My second line of reasoning, about coming across as demanding, bothered me even more.  I asked myself, would I worry about this if BRK were a boy?  Would I worry about this with Owl, who is a boy?  And I think my answer is, “I would worry about it less”.  I might see it more as “knowing what he wants” and “just being a boy”.  I would worry less about him seeming selfish or demanding.

I was reading a childhood classic to both kids last night, A Fish Out of Water.  There is the part when the boy breaks the news to the man at the fish store, Mr. Carp, that he didn’t follow the directions to “feed the fish just this much and no more”, and instead, fed him way too much.

And Mr. Carp replies, “Oh, dear! So you fed him too much! I knew you would.  I always say ‘don’t’ but you boys always do. Yes, I will come.”

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And I wondered about the girls.  Did THEY ever go against what Mr Carp said?  And if they did, what happened? Was it just no big deal, like in this case?  No scolding, just a gentle lesson learned?

Later I said, “You know, BRK, go ahead and ask for all the things you want to do in music class.”  My mind did race ahead to the possible tantrum that could occur, because it was unlikely the teacher would grant all the requests.  But it also reached ahead to BRK being just fine with it, which is what happened, and it was a gentle and real way to learn the lesson of Most Disappointments Are Not That Big Of A Deal.  And, I thought to my own life.  How many times have I amended my requests, making them smaller, in efforts to minimize future disappointment?  I noticed that when I invited people to things, I would say something like, “If you can’t make it I TOTALLY understand.”  I decided to stop saying that.  Why anticipate the No before it happens?  Why not wholeheartedly bound into the invitation, letting the person know how much their presence is desired?  A rejection might sting, but it won’t irreversibly harm.

I thought about all of these things, and especially thought about the messages I want and don’t want to send to BRK and Owl, about what is OK to ask for, and how it is OK to be.

**** I cannot believe it has been nearly 3 weeks since I last posted!  Tear.  It’s been an irregular 3 weeks of new summer schedules, lots of trips, etc.  We have one more week of schedule irregularity but then hoping to get my back to my standard Tuesday and Friday posts.  Thank you, readers, for staying with this blog! ****