The first time the Tooth Fairy didn't visit my kid when she was supposed to, I felt awful, and I had no one to blame but me. I was on TF duty that night, and I plum forgot.
When my daughter, confused, came to me the following morning, I fumbled for an explanation. If she kept her tooth under her pillow, I bet the Tooth Fairy would come tonight, I said. Satisfied with my answer, my daughter accepted it, and didn't mention the TF's no-show again. (And the TF had the alarm set on her iPhone so she'd be sure not to forget again.)
I told my friend, a mom of four, what happened, and unfazed she said, "Oh I've forgotten the Tooth Fairy, multiple times." With a wink she added, "The Tooth Fairy gets very busy sometimes."
I was thinking of my friend's basic logic—if you don't make it a big deal, it doesn't have to be a big deal—last weekend when I brought my girl to her first concert. We'd been looking forward to the show for months, since Christmas when her father and I surprised her with Taylor Swift tickets. Before the concert last week, my daughter made a special T-shirt, on which she declared in fabric crayon that she's Taylor's #1 Fan. At the show sometime after Taylor came on, well past bedtime, my girl sat down in her chair, closed her eyes, and fell asleep. I tried to stir her, but she was out. I didn't know what to do—this was something she'd been looking forward to for months, and it really bummed me out to think about how sad she would be when she realized she'd missed everything.
With no other options, I let her sleep. She snoozed through a couple of songs. Fortunately, after that I was able to poke her awake again, rally, have a great time, and you know, shake it off.
Was my daughter disappointed that she'd fallen asleep for part of the show? It barely registered. She had the best time--and wears her new official concert T everywhere. I'm so glad I didn't say anything to her about the catnapping--it didn't bother her one bit, after all, so there was no reason for it to bother me.
Like the Tooth Fairy incident, it was a reminder to me that many times kids would likely be fine with something, if we parents didn't get them worked up in the first place. I'm thinking, for example, of this story about parents' complaining because their Little League didn't issue participation trophies. Maybe some kids were going to be genuinely disappointed--but maybe they wouldn't have even noticed their "missing" trophies if the adults didn't complain about it.
Parents advisor Eileen Kennedy-Moore, Ph.D., creator of the video series Raising Emotionally and Socially Healthy Kids, offers this helpful analogy: "When our children fall, most of us learn not to let out a big gasp and run over there, but to pause for their reaction first. And of course if our kids are really upset we run over and pick them up and give them extra love. But if they're not reacting strongly, then we shouldn't either."
What about you? Have you ever kept mum about a mild disappointment for your kids' sake?
What's Your Parenting Style?
Gail O'Connor is a mom of one boy, two girls, and one rescue dog. She's a senior editor at Parents and you can follow her on Twitter.