sensitive parenting

It’s interesting how seemingly minor events in your life can become so difficult to forget.

When I was in my freshman year of college, I had a crush on a guy.  A big crush.  I tried to keep it a secret, but I’m sure others around me noticed it if they were paying attention.

In college, I had a close girl friend.  We’ll call her Jane.  Jane knew about my crush, and kept my secret for me.  One day, Jane informed me of a conversation she had been privvy to, a conversation with the guy I liked and some other people, including one gal we’ll call Amy.  Jane informed me that during this conversation where the guy I liked was present, Amy made public mention of the crush that I had on that guy, and made fun of me for my behaviors around that guy.  Apparently, she even did an impersonation of me fawning over the guy.  With a troubled heart, Jane later informed me of this conversation.

I was hurt and embarassed and angry by what Amy had done, even though I hadn’t seen it myself.  I avoided Amy as much as possible for the rest of my college days.  In my heart, I never forgave her.

This weekend, due to a random and unrelated event, I was reminded of Amy and what she had done.  All those embarassed and angry feelings came flooding back over me.  I shared the story with my husband, and remarked to him that I probably need to find some way to forgive Amy.  I took some time to examine my emotions about the situation, trying to figure out what the core of my hurt was in order to truly discover what I needed to forgive her for.  I realized that I was most angry with Amy for laughing at something that was very real and important to me.  I really did care about that guy.  He was special to me, and I was hurt that my feelings were not only not taken seriously but also belittled and made fun of.

(I also realized what Amy’s motive probably was.  Hindsight is 20/20, and knowing now what I didn’t know then, I wouldn’t be surprised if Amy had a crush on the same guy at that time, too.  Why else would she be so quick to make fun of me in front of him?  Anyway…)

I didn’t like being laughed at for something I took seriously.  It hurt my feelings.  And … it made me see parallels between this situation and something that my oldest daughter, Lyd, has been telling me for a while…

Lyd is almost six and a half years old.  She is earnest, innocent (in the non-theological sense), sweet, honest, and a deep thinker.  As a young lady with all of these qualities, she sometimes says or asks things from an earnest and thought-full heart that are … well, very funny to an adult.  Sometimes hysterically funny, but in deference to her feelings, I’ll refrain from telling stories (other than this one).  She does not mean to be funny in what she says, but I sometimes can’t keep from laughing.  Not surprisingly, she gets very upset when I laugh.  “Don’t laugh at me!” she huffs, with her arms folded across her chest, her chin stuck out, and tears in her eyes.  I usually reply, “I’m not laughing at you, I’m laughing at what you said.”  “Well, don’t!” she barks.

This scenario has been happening repeatedly off and on for about a year.  Up until now, I’ve thought that it’s okay for me to laugh, and that she just has to get over it.  Kids say funny things.  But, my sweet Lyd is SO sensitive, and it really does hurt her feelings when she’s laughed at.  As her mother who loves her so very dearly, I don’t want to hurt her feelings unnecessarily.  So, I wondered if she was being too sensitive, or if I wasn’t being sensitive enough.

And then, this weekend I remembered the incident with Amy.

Hmm.

Sigh.

Who’s the one who’s too sensitive now?

I hated being laughed at for something that I took very seriously, and my daughter seems to be just like me in this department.  So, I’m going to try harder to not laugh at her honest, heartfelt statements, no matter how much I may laugh later.

You know, that reminds me of something I read in one of the Anne of Green Gables books, probably Anne of Ingleside, the book where she’s raising her six kids.  I seem to remember a sentence along those lines.  Let me go look and see if I can find it…

Yes!  Here it is!  From Anne of Ingleside, paperback edition, page 149:

[Anne] listened while Nan [her daughter] sobbed out the whole story and managed to keep a straight face.  Anne always had contrived to keep a straight face when a straight face was indicated, no matter how crazily she might laugh it over with Gilbert afterwards.

It seems like Lucy Maud Montgomery agrees with me that it’s a good parenting tactic to not laugh at my daughter when she’s trying to be serious.  I certainly didn’t like it when it was done to me, and my daughter doesn’t like it done to her, either.

Maybe I’ll have to go back and read all of Anne of Ingleside now.  Maybe Montgomery will have some more parenting tricks for parents of sensitive girls…

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