“You’re fine.”

After four children and several years of parenting, you could say my emotional responses to certain things have changed over time.

I know the particular sound a child makes when its foot is caught between two crib rails. I know the difference between hunger and boredom and I know, I know, I know when you are fake upset or fake crying.

I’m like a crying Yoda. The Navy Seal of crying. *Field of Dreams whisper* If you fake cry, I will not come.

Today my four year old was pretending to be very upset about something really, really, devastatingly unimportant. It was the usual wailing and coyote howls straight from the Tom Cruise school of over-acting.

I ignored her. That’s how I roll. I stirred my coffee very slowly and made no movement to rectify the obviously concocted plight.

She finally came downstairs and said, “MY STRIPED SHIRT IS DIRTY! IT IS MY FAVORITE! I CAN’T WEAR IT TODAY!” and then she melted into a puddle of tears and barely passible grief and I said, “You’re fine.”

Later today, a mock shriek of epic proportions came from the swing set. “MOMMY! MOMMMMMYYYYYYY!”

I continued to wash dishes.

She finally stomped in and said, “There is dirt on my feet!” and I said, “You’re fine.”

Four is a lot like really bad dinner theatre. The actors are really into it. This is their moment and they think that everyone filling the room is just as into it as they are. They often fail to notice that the filet looks like dog shit and that the attendees are hoping for a massive coronary, praying for a swift death. “Dear Lawd, please take me away from all this tragedy and terrible acting.”

Since she is my third 4 year old, I’m kind of like that friend you have who continues to lose really stupid bets. I’ve been here before and I’m not impressed by the terrible theatrics and yes, my filet will always look like dog shit.

A friend recently pointed me toward a magazine article that severely detailed the “10 things you should NEVER EVER say to your child!”. I found one of my stock answers, “You’re fine/ok” was among them.

And I had to excuse myself from the internet while I kicked a whole boat load of rocks.

Because,

1) Calm down, parenting magazines

but guess what, no biggie…

2) I’m fine.

and

3) She’s ok.

I tell my 4 year old that she is fine because she is and if that’s the kind of brash, harsh reality that I shouldn’t be exposing my children to then…oh well. I’m sure we’ll be fine.

It’s the same way I feel about lots of things people “should” you about. You should do this and you should do that and you should consider…” but, no thank you, I believe I will not.

I tell her that she is fine because she is and more than that, no matter what any magazine tells me my job is, I truly don’t believe my job is to make every tiny cardboard lizard into a terrible, ferocious fire breathing dragon. Sometimes, we do need to acknowledge that a dirty shirt isn’t the end of the world.

She fell off of the swing a few days ago. She was hurt and scared and a bit confused. The wind was knocked out of her. I ran over and scooped her up. She cried and buried her face in my hair. I said, “I’m here! I’m right here. I’m sorry you’re hurt. I love you.”

The world is like that. Humanity is like that. We don’t need our community to run to our aid over every teeny-tiny perceived threat to our psyche, but, when we’re really hurt, we really show up for each other. I like this model; recognizing the times that call for a soft shoulder while acknowledging that sometimes, that gnawing inconvenience is not the end of our world even if it may feel like it for a few minutes.

Someone is going to continue to stir their coffee when you complain about your shirt, but, they’re also going to scoop you up and love you when you fall.

And I’m going to continue to say that she’s fine when she is and I’m going to continue to love her through the hard stuff when she’s not.

I can live with that even if I’m doing it wrong.





Comments

  1. You’re doing it right hon…..all right. :) LOVE! Devan

  2. But, but, but, you didn’t acknowledge her emotional trauma at the prospect of a dirty shirt!

    I read that article. I had to hold the magazine above my head to finish it, because I couldn’t stop rolling my eyes.

    • I actually had my 11-year-old son read an article out loud to us at work (something about don’t say “good job” to your kid) and we all agreed it was bullshit. So did my son. :)

  3. Can we be friends please????!!! I loved this! I have a VERY “theatrical” 6 year old. Her tenacity and will in expressing her displeasure is quite legendary, over things like a dirty skirt, or how dare a friend not be home when she calls them for a play date. Thank you for being an example of common sense!!

  4. Andrea Miller says:

    We are SO much the same! Thank you!

  5. Perfectly said. As per usual. Love your writing. Yes, kids need to learn that a dirty shirt is not the end of the world (unless it’s the only one that matches your pants).

  6. Why, why, WHY???! Oh cruel world!!!
    Isnt it our job to give them a peek at perspective before they have enough of their own? That article was full of bs.

  7. I tell my child all the time. “You should only cry when you are physically hurt.” That puts an end to the crying over nothing in my home.

  8. You’re not doing it wrong – not at all.

  9. You’ve touched on something that is so important in my opinion. When my daughter was younger and she’d fall down (which she did… a lot!) most of the time I didn’t run to her rescue. I told her gently “You’re fine now hop up.” Now she is a bit older and looks at me like “How could you be so calm?” I ask her “Are you bleeding?? Do you think you will live??” 90% of the time she says, “No, no red is coming out.” or “Yes I’ll live.” I’m not grumpy-sounding when I ask but I don’t get overly emotional either. She realizes it’s a small emergency and she copes.
    We had a talk just recently because she’s been driving me extra crazy and that means the yelling hag has come out to play more than I am comfortable with. So I sat her down and told her, “I want you to know even if Mama is grumpy, or angry, or sad, I love you the same always.” She’s started repeating that and I think it is something important to teach her. I don’t love her less when I turn into the yelling hag… I just am having a not-so-nice-moment. For a five year old to say “OK Mama, I love you even when I’m sad or angry too.” It means a lot to me, and it makes me feel better about our relationship. No I’m not perfect, I am sure those “don’t do this, do this” articles would have a few choice words for me too.

    • So funny. When my 7-year-old falls down (which is a lot–not clumsy, just physically adventurous) his standard reaction is to jump up, survey the damage and report “No blood. Still breathing.” I call that a parenting success.

  10. “Four is a lot like really bad dinner theatre.” – This proves that 1) You are the parenting Yoda to my Luke and 2) You’ve been spying on my 4 year-old’s dramatics. Love this piece.

  11. Hahahahaha! This made my day! As a mom who is old enuff to draw social security, I saw myself in your words! I have Never been accused of sugar-coating Anything or offering much sympathy. My mantra is that the Worst Thing you can do to your child is to feel sorry for them……..

    I train dogs now……all breeds, all circumstances…..One hurdle that many people who rescue dogs from dire circumstances have to jump over is this “poor abused dawg” mindset……Giving him reasons and Excuses for his bad behavior……How in the World can Either of you become successful if you wallow in your /his drama? Buck up. You are Fine.

    Thanks, sister!

  12. I love this post. “You’re fine.” “It’s better than a kick in the head.” “It’s not going to kill you.” are all regulars on my parenting soundtrack.

  13. I’ve read that before too. Something about discounting their feelings or some such bullshit? Um, yes, I am discounting my 4-year-old’s hysterics over the fact that her pink cowgirl boot is too hard to put on without using her hands. Because those hysterics need to be entirely discounted, discredited, discouraged. One day, after what feels like forever of ignoring these 4-year-old episodes, she’ll hopefully turn into a 5-year-old whose hysterics mean something.

  14. Yes yes yes!! I would tell my kids, “If you’re not bleeding, and you can’t see bone, I do not need to hear about it.” My daughter also was very theatrical. She still now, at 24 and the (almost) mother of 2, occassionally describes herself as ‘All hypebole, all the time.’ Which tells me she knows the difference, and can catch herself when she’s – ahem – going off the rails. It’s also incredibly rewarding to hear the same phrases that got her so annoyed and frustrated with me come out of her mouth, said to my grandson, who also, by the way, is fine. :-)

  15. 7-year-old son this morning:
    *screeching in a voice boys can only do before their voice changes*
    “Why isn’t my blue shirt here?!?!?!?!?”
    Me: “It’s dirty. There’s nothing I can do about it right now. Pick another shirt.”
    Then I walked away to make lunches, breakfasts and snacks for a small army or one small child.
    Two minutes later he came down, dry-eyed and fine. With a shirt on even.
    Sometimes we don’t need to feed the drama. You nailed this.

  16. Oh please, can you write the parenting magazines? Hearing this sane voice amidst the hype would have been a lifesaver as a brand new mom. You’re smart and gracious, Bethany, and I’m thankful for you!

  17. I subscribe to this parenting philosophy too. We all need to remember that “Someone is going to continue to stir their coffee when you complain about your shirt, but, they’re also going to scoop you up and love you when you fall.” Well said. xoxo

  18. I want to fist-bump explode you so hard right now.

    I’m sick of being vilified for teaching my kids about reality.

  19. I’m glad I didn’t see that article because then we’d have written very similar posts this week.

  20. I love this so much and I feel the same way. Our kids have to learn that they are “fine” so much of the time, even if they don’t think so. I love your words, always do.

  21. Yes times infinity. “You’re fine” is one of my stock answers, too.

  22. Now THIS is a parenting manifesto I can get behind. I like this so, so very much, B.

  23. Thank you, Bethany, for speaking truth from the I’m Okay, You’re Okay school of parenting. You are so much more than “fine.” You are SUPERFINE!

  24. I love this. So so so right on.

  25. When my children were learning to walk,and than as toddlers, they would often fall down. I would quickly check to see if they were truly hurt. If they weren’t, I would clap and say “Good Job”. They learned to pick themselves up without crying every time they fell. Our children often react to our reactions. I think you are right on the money with “you’re o.k”!

  26. My kids (25,16,11) all know what it means when I ask, “are you broken? Are you bleeding?” Because when the answer is no, the next thing is, “suck it up buttercup,”. They also know being broken means if they truly have a broken heart. I’m not an unfeeling mother, we are very close and are constantly having quality time, I just refuse to have whinny little people who have never learned that problem solving is something you learn with practice. Hugs and laughter and plenty of kisses are shared, just not during whinny time.
    Another favorite, that my oldest now uses with her daughter is, “use your words, I don’t understand banshee”

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