Allowing Them To Struggle
December 19, 2022
by Dr. Plastic Picker
I wanted so badly to talk to my friend who I’m not allowed to email. It’s a self-imposed “not allowed to email” situation because I don’t want to bother them, and my family does not want me to bother them. My friend is a father and I imagined him to be the perfect father-in-law to my daughter. But obviously that is not my decision to make right now. My friend was an educator for a long time before becoming an important player in the University of California system, so he knows children well. He is also a father to a boy and likely understands some of my confusion and parenting dilemmas (wow that’s a hard word to spell without spellcheck).
But I’m a pediatrician and I should be the perfect parent right? That’s what the world expects of me. Am I allowed to struggle? Am I allowed to make mistakes? If as a pediatrician your kids don’t “turn out well” isn’t there more judgement? I’m not worried about the judgement part, because I’ve moved beyond it. But I’ve always known that parents who work a lot and who are forced to place other’s needs in front of their own family’s needs and who have little control over their schedule, we’re supposed to be the perfect parents? In fact, good parenting is antithesis to the work-life of most doctors even pediatricians. It’s a fact.
But I think as a profession we do pretty well, because before we became doctors and pediatricians – we were people. We were raised by parents who loved us, and communities who nurtured us. And that is what made us good people and good pediatricians, not medical school and not the HMOs and corporate who-evers who benefit from our labor and the love we bestow on our patients and communities.
Back to parenting dilemmas. I wanted to email my friend but I didn’t, so I’ll share here. It’s just been a tough weekend. We were at volleyball at our first two day tournament, and the little one was absolutely gorgeous looking like a volleyball cutie. She’s so adorable and that’s really all I think about. I know, I’m very superficial. But during the tournament when we splurged and stayed at the Marriot, and ate a fancy steak dinner (yes BEEF, don’t JUDGE!) and she had lamb chops (we are mostly plant based, so it had been a few YEARS!) and had ice cream at Downtown Disney – she was upset and cried tears that were true body-raking tears. These tears were worse then our family’s homecoming drama and pseudo-kdrama tears. She cried despite her team sweeping the tournament, because she felt that she wasn’t enough. She felt that she wasn’t setting good enough and not being recognized by her coach. And that was it. And it was so hard to see her struggle last night with her tears, and the hurt she was inflicting on herself.
Mr. Plastic Picker and I are experienced parents and we are in step. We just listened. We listened to her cry and her tell us her feelings. It was echoes of something I wanted to email my friend about. The reason I wanted to email my friend, is that I still think our families are connected in some way – but in what way, I don’t know. But their son struggled with something similar. It’s hard to see your child struggle, isn’t it? She was struggling too last night, and I mentioned to her that a certain boy had gone through something similar. Indeed, probably all athletes do.
She slept with me last night and I held her. It was the same as the night when she felt she wasn’t enough in another way.
The teenage years are hard. Even for those that look like they are perfect on the outside. They demand so much of themselves. They expect so much. And I think that it’s a good thing, because I’ve been there as a child who achieved a lot. They can get hurt as well, and there is less sympathy for them because the seem to have everything. Sometimes even their friends aren’t the best to be there, because friendship can be complicated and sometimes have a layer of competitiveness.
Since I can’t email my friend, I’ll tell you what we did to change the subject. During the tears, the subject turned to our older son’s college admission decisions – which we are awaiting. We started talking about the reality of college, and the various Korean Student Associations at the different colleges. It was fun looking at the different colleges where he wants to attend and where she wants to attend. We looked at the Facebook pages and the different fun events that freshman are invited to. The teen perked up as I said I found the pictures of current students. It looked fun, and we have a going joke about how long it’s going to take our son to find a college girlfriend. I think a year. He thinks 3 weeks. But as we were looking at the current Korean students at different schools, I turned to my daughter and said – “uuuhhh, I think J is looking pretty good. I don’t think you are going to find the magical Kdrama ready protagonist necessarily at Yale”. It irritated her to no end, and she got mad! But at least she forgot for a moment about her sorrow and self-recriminations. It truly is like the toddler years. They get into their emotional moments and their temper tantrums and wanting the world to be like this or that, and the only thing you can do is hold them or try to distract them. So I distracted her a bit yesterday with non-sequiturs about which boys were cuter or not-cuter than a certain boy.
That’s partly what I wanted to tell my friend. But I can’t. But I can write it on my blog , hidden among hundreds of blogpost.
I have the day off as vacation today, so I’ll spend it hanging out with a volleyball cutie. I also wanted to send my friend pictures of my volleyball cutie so he could show his son. But I won’t, because I promised. I can’t for a few years. But I can show you.
Isn’t she cute? I hope she doesn’t look at my blog because she asks me to take this post down, I will. But it’s really my emotional journal and when she is hurt, I get hurt. When she struggles, my mommy heart wants to struggle for her. But I won’t. Because I know it’s part of growing up.
Much love to all my readers and especially those that have teenagers yourself.