Dealing with Disappointment and Dread

Crying HeadI dreaded my daughter’s return. I had just exchanged emails with her friend Olivia’s mom and we had canceled their after-school playdate. My daughter had anticipated this playdate for weeks. The girls had originally scheduled a playdate themselves, and the day before that one, we had to tell them it didn’t exist.

My daughter didn’t react to that news very well. She got mad and she cried and cried. I tried to comfort her with the news of the real playdate we’d scheduled, but six-year-olds aren’t big on delayed gratification. When she did calm down, she asked about the new play date.  “How many sleeps?” she asked.

“Eight.”

“Eight sleeps?? That’s too many!” So I told her all the things she could look forward to until then. Every night, she asked how many sleeps as we counted down. The day before the play date, she told me how excited she was and that she couldn’t wait to go to sleep so she could wake up on play date day. Unfortunately, the anticipation didn’t stop her from stalling at bedtime. Oh well.

That night my son woke up vomiting at 4 a.m. My husband got up but asked me to take care of it as he had work in the morning. I cleaned my son up and he and I slept in the guest room. He definitely wasn’t going to school the next day.

My daughter was fine, so she went to school while I stayed home with my son. I knew I couldn’t bring my son to the playdate but my daughter had her heart set on it, so I emailed Olivia’s mom, asking her if I could drop my daughter at the park and pick her up later. She responded that given my son’s illness, she thought it best that we cancel. We discussed rescheduling but didn’t set a date.

The more I thought about it, the more I dreaded my daughter’s return home. This would break her heart. It would have been her first play date since we moved here three months ago, and I knew how much she wanted friends. I really wanted this for her. But what I dreaded the most was her reaction. When she gets upset, she cries, she screams, she runs away, and when she learned that her brother was responsible, I knew she’d hate him. To top it off, I’d lost sleep overnight so I wasn’t running on a full tank.

After living in a state of dread for a few hours, I wondered: What’s wrong with this picture? What kind of parent am I if I’m dreading the antics of a six-year-old? Better parents can handle this, I thought. Then again, normal six-year-olds don’t go running off whenever something disappoints them. Something was wrong — with me or my daughter or both — and it needed to be fixed.

I picked her up at the bus stop, and we’d hardly taken a few steps before she said something about the play date and I had to break the news.

“NOOO!” She yelled, bursting into tears. “I hate Olivia’s mom! We’re never gonna have a playdate!”

I told her we’d reschedule. “NOOO! I DON’T WANNA RESCHEDULE! NOOOO!”

I told her I’d tried my best to make it happen. “NOOOO!” she yelled and she ran toward our house. At least she was going in the right direction.

Her little brother was walking next to me, so I couldn’t run after her. I do understand that she runs because she needs space, and I try and give it to her, within reason. As we approached the house, she ran around its side and I lost visual contact. I got my son inside and went to look for her. I found her in the side yard moping. She looked at me and I opened my arms. She turned and walked away. If I went after her, she’d run away, so I just kept my eye on her, until she ran toward the front of the house. I followed her and sat on the front stoop.

“I HATE OLIVIA’S MOM! I HATE OLIVIA!” She looked at me, “Why did she do it?”

I was hoping to avoid this discussion, but I told her, “She was afraid that Olivia would catch your brother’s flu.”

“I HATE HIM! I HATE HIM!”

“It’s not his fault he got sick.”

She ran into the road. We live on a cul-de-sac, so being in the road wasn’t as much of a problem as it sounds. I stayed on the porch and watched her. She’d walk away, then look back, walk away, then look back. I stayed put. She started to walk up the hill, out of the cul-de-sac. “Come back down. I don’t want you to get hurt,” I said. She turned around and stopped, looking at me.

I sat there for quite a while before she decided to come back. She was still upset when she did, but able to be plied with a roller skating excursion in the neighborhood. I’d recently bought her some roller skates and she’d been asking to skate all the time. So I got us all ready – her brother in the stroller — and we went skating.

She was okay after skating, but when she did mention the play date, she teared up again. She hated Olivia’s mom. She hated her brother, etc. I think she did get a little humanity when her brother threw up on the way to his doctor appointment later on, but four days later, she’s still hurt and talking about missing her old friends. And I don’t know what to do. The move has been tough on her, but does a normal six-year-old act like that when she’s disappointed? I don’t know. She’s the only six-year-old I’ve ever had.