Updated: Jun 30, 2020
Every child is going to be subject to tiny traumas, like the cruelty of friends or falling down on a playground. It’s the way we as parents deal with these tiny traumas that help our kids get through these moments without being traumatized for life. I remember when I was a child watching my mother overreacting to tiny traumas with exclamations like, “Oh My God, Roy!” But my dad was always calm, collected, bold, and fully present, and this attitude was the overwhelming force that kept me from being traumatized and left me sane.
The other day, I took my 10-year-old daughter to gymnastics. I pulled my very large van alongside a building across from the gym, got out, and started to walk her to her class. Suddenly, a man came out of the building and said, “Hey, lady. You better not park there. Someone might come around the corner and hit you!” I saw that he was right, and we jumped back into my van and pulled all the way back, and proceeded again to her class. This time he came charging at me like a crazed elephant, screaming angrily at the top of his lungs, “That’s not what I had in mind! MOVE THE VAN AWAY FROM THE BUILDING!”
My daughter began to scream at me from fright, “Mommy, get in! Mommy, get in the van! He’s going to hurt you!” I knew that I had to confront this man, so I walked toward him and asked, “Why are you so angry?” He continued to scream at me, and I told him he was a very rude person. He became threatening, and I realized that he literally wanted to pick a fistfight with me. I decided to get in the van and park it far away from his building.
Now, the real problem started. My daughter, crying and upset, said she did not want to go to gymnastics ever again. Knowing that she loved gymnastics, I sat for a minute and knew that I had to deal perfectly with this moment or this trauma would stay with her forever! I explained to her that Mommy had no fear of this angry man and that he was the frightened one and that was why he was acting like an animal trying to scare me!
This speech did not work, and I realized that she was going to allow him to steal away the thing that she loved. So I told my daughter that if she let this man take away this one thing she loved, I was going to let him take away everything she loved, including all of her stuffed animals, her hamster, her friends, and her crafts. She cried, “No, Mommy, No!”
Next, I told her I was going to go and sit in gymnastics every Monday. Even if she did not go, I was still going! So I got out of the car and left her thinking. I went into the building and sat down. Soon, she came in and sat next to me. She began calming down and after a few minutes, said boldly, “OK Mom, I want to go to class!” She left it all behind her and was free! “Thank God,” I thought, for the wisdom to not coddle her. I grew in that moment as well.
I was still not done with that man. After her class was over, I called the police and told them of his threats and asked only for an apology for my daughter. They talked to him and he agreed to apologize to her. I wanted her to face this man once and for all. She did, and she saw that he was just a weak, angry man and had no power over her—only what she might give him through fear.
Moral of the Story: Help your kids work through their traumas, but the first line of defense is good parenting!