Dealing with disappointment!

Dear Amy: My beautiful high school senior is having a hard time.

When she was in elementary school, she announced that she would be the high school valedictorian. She has kept her vow. She volunteers for many organizations, tutors middle-school students, is an athlete, and is on the mock trial and academic team.

Her intense discipline, vision, and hard work paid off.

Because of the current national crisis, she will not be able to attend any of the end-of-year banquets, give her farewell speeches, go to prom, walk at graduation, or go to parties.

Her solace now is playing the piano and loving her pets. She still tutors students online.

When she shared her disappointment with a beloved relative, this person responded: “Welcome to adult life. You will discover disappointments at every turn. How you handle bad luck and disappointments will determine your long-term success.”

Even though I agree with the advice, it feels cold and uncaring.

I know I can’t fix this, but what can her mother and I do to help her get through her disappointments?

— Sad Dad

Dear Dad: Your “beloved relative” did my job for me.

Every word of what that person said is absolutely true. This is NOT what a hurting teenager wants to hear, but I assure you – this “cold and unfeeling” wisdom will come back to her time and time again. Eventually, she will be grateful for it.

The experiences she and her cohorts are absorbing during this period will stay with them for the rest of their lives. They will remember it as being an extremely challenging and unfair time, that nonetheless taught them many things. When they have children of their own, they will try to pass along some of the wisdom your relative tried to impart (and it will no-doubt be met with generational skepticism).

Granted – any tough love is easier to hear when it is accompanied by a hug, tenderness, and the reaction that every hurting person values which is to feel seen and understood. That’s what you and her mother will deliver.

I would add one thing. Even though your daughter will miss the public accolades and experiences that she so sincerely deserves to receive, she will always have this: She gets to spend the rest of her life being HER — the accomplished, caring, smart and kind person who (along with countless young people around the world), caught a very tough break. My heart goes out to them. I wish I could take every last one of them to the prom. (c) Ask Amy

I dunno. I disagree with Ask Amy’s advice. The comment made by the beloved relative seems harsh. I agree with the comment, in the sense that yes, life is filled with disappointments. But I don’t agree with saying it. Just because something’s true doesn’t mean it should be said. I think the letter writer feels the same way:

Even though I agree with the advice, it feels cold and uncaring.

To me, the statement about life’s fairness sounds practical and realistic. But if you’d said it to eighteen-year-old me, I would’ve felt threatened and hurt. It’s hard at that age to understand stuff like that on an emotional level.

On the other hand, maybe the high-school senior was being obnoxious and whiny about it, and her relative finally flipped out. (My reaction would’ve been to urge her to have virtual get-togethers and mock celebrations.)

I’d be sad if I’d missed the prom and graduation and the last days of school. After all, I was nominated for prom queen! (As a joke. A sick, twisted joke.) [Eyeroll.] I should’ve gone all Carrie on them, with fake blood and everything. And graduation just made me sob. Many of my friends were four years younger than me. I didn’t want to go to college. I wanted to turn around and repeat all four years of high school. They wouldn’t let me.

I feel genuinely sorry for this letter writer. Senior year is and should be the most special year ever. Despite how I was nominated for prom queen as a joke, I hold a lot of nostalgia for that year. I think of “Yanni: Live at the Acropolis” and feel all sentimental inside. I remember making out with a guy at youth camp the summer after senior year. I haven’t gotten much action since, by the way. And I still remember that year’s disappointments with regret, even after all these years. Like how I was elected Most Bashful, but I was in the mental hospital when they photographed the winners, so the runner-up is in the yearbook instead of me. It’s been twenty-five years, but I’m still disappointed. Go figure.

Disappointment is a horrible emotion. Not to dip into sad family stuff, but my brother wasn’t allowed to participate in his high-school graduation. He got into trouble at school. I’m not sure what he did, but I can most assuredly say that his reason for it involved our mother. He was really broken up over it. That breaks my heart. And I think that would be a bigger disappointment than mine or the letter writer’s daughter’s.

 

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