My daughter has been anticipating the first day of Middle School since the day after her promotion ceremony from elementary school. Days, weeks, months of excitement and suspense that led to a day last week; Middle School, day 1. It started like the other “first days” of the past with a new outfit, new backpack, and big smile for pictures in the front yard. It seemed to have ended well too, as my daughter enthusiastically rattled off every detail she could recall about her day on the drive home. But, a few hours after we got home, she walked into my office with tears in her eyes. When I asked her what was wrong she shrugged and sobbed, “I didn’t like it as much as I thought I would…as much as I hoped I would.” Ouch.
As it turns out, above and beyond just being totally freaked out and uncomfortable with navigating a new everything (routine, surroundings, friends, teachers, etc.) some girl she didn’t know said something terribly cruel to her at the end of the highly-charged first day and she couldn’t shake it. She assured me that it wasn’t just the comment that was upsetting her and although I recognized that it was a big part of her reaction, I knew it was the experience as a whole that overwhelmed her.
Plain and simple; the unknown is hard. Transitions, shifts and changes of any kind are really challenging and emotionally charged. At any age. At every age. There’s no guarantee that when we make a move, start something new, or take a risk that we’re going to be happy. Or excited. Or satisfied. Especially at first. And especially when we’ve built up this “amazing” thing in our minds and filled our tender hearts with so much expectation and anticipation. We’ve all experienced that kind of disappointment.
Gladly, we’re only a few days in and already these things—worries, reactions, emotions—are balancing out. I hoped they would. As did she. But even with that, I haven’t stopped thinking about my daughter’s initial teary and disheartened response that day…
“I didn’t like it as much as I thought I would…as much as I hoped I would.”
I marvel at her ability to be so honest and vulnerable in the midst of her disappointment. I’m proud that she could articulate and express it so clearly, even through her tears. Sometimes things just don’t work out like we hope they would. Truth. Thankfully, there are times when they turn out way better than we could have ever hoped and although that might be a practical (and awesome) consolation, those things usually reveal themselves after time and in hindsight.
Right now, I’m just taking away what I learned from my daughter, in hopes of following her lead; that sometimes a big disappointment just warrants a good, long cry.