Our fifteen year old daughter stumbled home exhausted. It had been a week of dance company try outs, English class projects, and endless texts and calls between friends around coordinating next year’s class schedules.
As she slumped at the table with a bowl of soup–alone because everyone else had eaten hours ago– the tears welled up in her eyes and spilt out on her sweet cheeks. Our first instinct was to come at her all smiles and positivity, saying we were sure she made the dance team. When she shook her head, we shifted to wanting to sooth her with a reminder that she was only a sophomore and still had next year to try out. But that didn’t do much good either.
All we could do was emphasize how proud we were of her for trying because she would grow from the effort alone. We pointed out her she was a beautiful dancer and that it was just one facet of her life. We also acknowledged that it must be hard.
In the end, we sat there quietly as she talked about the freshmen girls that were so much better than she was, the fact that there were over 100 girls trying out for 7 spots and how she wanted to quit dance all together if she was going to be stuck on a lower team that never had the fun of performing.
I share this not because we did it perfectly, but because all it took was 10 minutes of placing ourselves in her world to feel an increase in understanding and intimacy. We aren’t sure it was reciprocally felt, but it made us appreciate our little girl who was growing up and facing disappointment and unwelcome changes of plans.
How often do we adults step back into a son or daughter’s world? How is it done? Can we play one video game? Can we walk into their bedroom to invite them to join us at the table for dinner, rather than text up to them? Can we think back to a time we suffered a loss in our own personal history?
The next day our girl came home all smiles because she caught a t-shirt that was thrown up into the bleachers at a school assembly. World views can change rapidly.
Living family life in parallel universes is not the ideal. Though life is rarely ideal, we can all take a giant step for family unity by making it our mission to visit their world often.
Because family success is the success that matters.
Tim Thayne, Ph.D.