Look, ma isn't giving up

Look, ma isn't giving up

There are lessons for my children in the way I deal with personal disappointments.

Recently, I applied for a scholarship. I had my heart set on doing a PhD in creative writing and had already started research for a book of short stories.

Knowing that young children needed time to get used to changes in our household and a new routine, I told my two sons my plans and that, like them, I might start a new term next year.

My eight-year-old was so keen on the prospect (he probably thought I'd be on campus a lot, instead of at home breathing down his neck about homework), he even composed a ditty to the tune of Yankee Doodle:

Next year, kor kor's Primary 3

And Lucien will be K2,

Papa will have lots of work

And Mummy will go back to school!

Then, last week, an e-mail landed in my inbox: Thanks for applying. You're unsuccessful.

Looking back, it was probably presumptuous of me to count my chickens before they are hatched - but the e-mail, when it came, still felt like a wallop between the eyes.

Maybe, just maybe, my eyes even watered a little from the blow of disappointment.

Doing a PhD had been a decision I'd arrived at after much soul searching.

With the foolish optimism of an overreacher, a featherless Icarus, I thought that when I finally set the process rolling, everything would fall into place and I would be closer to my dream of writing and publishing fiction.

As parents, we are told by experts and motherhood manuals that we have to help our children cope with disappointment, to equip them with the resilience necessary to get through life. And that the best way to do so is by example.

But what happens if we ourselves are still struggling with this business of accepting failure with the right attitude, of allowing that some things we just can't get?

We move from throwing tantrums over not getting the last Oreo or a particular toy, to tasting the bitter tang over larger things: that dream girl who married somebody else, the promotion we missed out on and the cause you fought for that lost.

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