When my daughter Amy entered middle school, she looked two to three years younger than most of her female peers. That was a blessing to me, of course, but from Amy's perspective, it was a curse. She frequently - at least once a week - came home from school complaining that the other girls didn't want her around, that she had no friends, and so on. Willie and I felt for her, but we also knew there was nothing we could do to solve her social problems. We could not magically cause her to look more mature. (And besides, having been a testosterone-driven teenage boy once, I did not want her to look more mature.)
We listened to her complaints, talked to her about her problems (none of which she had brought on herself), said that things in her life at that moment weren't fair, agreed that many of her female peers were self-centered and mean, and held her when she cried. Nothing changed, of course. She continued to be Miss Unpopularity.
Finally, at somewhat of a loss, I decided to share a different perspective with her. One day, after a litany of complaints, I said, "Well, Amy, I know you're going to have difficult understanding this, but being unpopular isn't such a bad thing, really."
"How so?" she asked, her eyes full of tears.
"Well, it's teaching you to not need other people's approval to be who you are, to be more independent, to stand on your own two feet."
"Yeah, Daddy, but it hurts!"
"I know it hurts right now, when you're thirteen, but it's going to be a blessing to you someday."
"Yeah, maybe, but it hurts right now!"
From that point on, whenever she brought up the subject of her lack of popularity, I would listen, agree, and then remind her that being unpopular was helping her learn to be less needy of approval, and so on. And she would tell me that it hurt right now. And around and around these conversations went, seemingly going nowhere.
In high school, Amy began to look more and more her age, developed a circle of close friends (one of whom is her best friend to this day), and became a happy camper. One day, many years later, when she was in her mid-thirties and happily married with three children, Amy and I were talking, and she suddenly, rather out of the blue, said, "Daddy, do you remember when I was in middle school, and I would complain to you about having no friends, and you would tell me it was making me a stronger person? Well, I really hated that. I thought you just didn't understand the problems I was having. But you were right after all. That experience really did make me into a person who is less dependent on other's people's approval."
Sometimes it takes years for a lesson to sink in. And there are times, too, when something that doesn't seem good at the moment is good in the long run.
From "Grandma Was Right After All!", Copyright 2015, John Rosemond
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