Tonight was a rough night for both of us. Melody was going to a sleepover, Romeo was staying home with Daddy, and you and I got dressed up and headed to a variety show that was a fundraiser several of our friends were performing in. When we got to the show, plans changed suddenly (the reasons don’t really matter), and instead of going in to watch the show, I decided we would leave with some friends who weren’t staying and go get ice cream.
You’re 4. I guess because of your age, I figured going to get ice cream would be just as fun for you. You did ask a couple of times on the way why we weren’t staying for the show, but I assumed that once you got your ice cream and were hanging out with your friends, you’d forget all about it.
Fast forward 2 hours. We are done with our ice cream. The variety show is over by now so going back is not an option. We get into the car to head home and you ask me again, “Why didn’t we watch the show?” I explain to you in young terms what happened and why I decided ice cream was a better option. You still didn’t get it. And you began to cry. And cry. And sob. For 40 minutes, you sobbed your little heart out because you REALLY wanted to see the show, and you REALLY wanted to see your other friends perform and you REALLY didn’t want ice cream. Oy, the sobbing.
At first, I tried to placate you with things like, “But wasn’t your ice cream yummy?” and “We’ll see other shows.” But you would have none of it. You sobbed like your heart was broken all the way home. I carried your heaving, teary, snotty, sweaty little body into the house and we sat down on the couch. And that’s when I realized. You may be little, but you have feelings, too. And those feelings matter. And those feelings deserve at least to be heard, even if they don’t change the course we take.
So that is where I started my apology.
“Jubilee, I am VERY sorry that I did not ask you what YOU wanted to do.”
You looked at me through red, swollen eyes.
“I had no idea that it was so important to you to see the show. I thought you’d enjoy getting ice cream just as much. I should have asked you how you felt about it and I’m very sorry I didn’t. Can you forgive me?”
You nodded and dissolved back into sobs. You asked if we could start the day over so you could see the show. I said it doesn’t work that way. You said there’ll never be another show like that one. I admitted you were right. I didn’t try to cajole you out of your feelings. I just let you have them and helped you name them. You were very sad. You were mad at me for not listening to you. . .And you felt like no one cared about your opinions.
Now I know a lot of grown-ups who would say you’re too little for your opinions to count. But I disagree. I want you to grow up feeling heard. Feeling important. And feeling like your feelings matter, even when they seem too big for what’s happening. I truly am sorry I didn’t give your thoughts the space or respect they deserved tonight. Thank you for forgiving me for my mistake. And I hope someday if you look back on this incident, you don’t remember so vividly that you missed the show, but rather that we worked through your grief together even though it was hard. Because I want you to know you can do hard things. And I want you to know that I’ll hold you when it feels too hard. Because you’re worth it.