Small Talk


August 10th, 2015

The day has come when my daughter was formally rejected from something she wanted to be a part of and was cognizant of it. Sure, she's been "regretted" (the politically correct term when you don't get in at some elite private schools) from some school applications, but she didn't know or care.

She has also been in tiffs with cliques at school which have hurt her feelings, but this is the first time she was officially declined acceptance to a group. Olivia was auditioning for a dance troupe and didn't make the cut.

We weren't even really sure she was that interested because her attention ebbs and flows, but I think it's the idea of someone else not choosing you. It's one thing if you decide you don't want to join the club, but it's another if they say they don't want you.

After two weeks of auditions, the teacher sent home a very nicely worded letter which follows a time-honored template of saying all the nice stuff about your kid first, then gently delivering the blow. As parents, we understand, and we aren't all that surprised because she seemed so ambivalent about it all.

Therefore, it caught me by surprise when we updated Olivia on the status of her auditions, and she started crying. And then my heart kind of broke.

Hugging sad people.

Hugging sad people.

I'm sure every parent's been through it. You want to protect your child from every hurt the world will bring and you can't. You feel helpless.

But we can't do it all for her. We can't make her pay attention in dance class. We can't force her to be consistently interested or cooperative.

We've tried. We constantly remind her she needs to do this or that to progress.

She hasn't. This is the natural consequence of her inability to focus.

I'm disappointed for her. But, I sucked it up and put on a positive face and hugged her.

I told her rejection is a part of life and if she really wants to succeed in the next activity, she needs to pay more attention to directions in class.

You may be wondering if persevering with next year's tryouts could be part of the teachable moment. No.

They actually disinvited her from trying again next year due to where it appears she is in her progress. This, we didn't tell her. We weren't sure how to navigate that, but the problem was solved when Olivia told us she was ready to be done with this club.

She's naturally athletic and seemed to do well when she applied herself, so I told her I know she can do whatever she sets her mind to. We said we believe in her.

I also told her I've been rejected a bunch of times from a bunch of things, and I just picked myself up and kept going until I got the result I wanted. When I was applying for my first few TV jobs, I was rejected at least five dozen times.

I saved all my rejection letters from those early years. The stack is about one inch thick. I labeled it Humility Check.

TV can be a tough business. Let me tell you about major rejection.

I had secured a meeting with a Hawaii news director (no longer working in Hawaii TV) to look at my resume. There was no job available, but I was trying to establish a connection and hopefully have him keep me in mind for any future openings.

After looking at my reel, he asked, "Where did you go to college?"

I answered. "You should get a refund," he flatly stated.

No joke, no exaggeration. This is exactly how the conversation went. I still remember it like it was last week.

I was flabbergasted. I have never had anyone before, or since, be that rude.

I conducted the rest of the meeting as if the remark didn't hurt me, and then decided he could __ himself.  I was not going to cry over that. I certainly wasn't going to curl up in a ball and quit because one guy said something mean.

I knew what I had to offer and I decided I would work hard and develop that for another station to appreciate. Which did, eventually, happen.

I didn't tell all that boring stuff to my kid, though. Maybe in another decade, when she's ready. What I did tell her, though, was:

"If Mommy gave up after the first dozen stations said no, she wouldn't be doing what she does today, which is a job she likes and has worked hard to be competent at. If there's something you really want, you need to work for it and you need to believe in yourself."

She is smart, beautiful, athletic, funny, and charming (when she wants to be!). We reminded her of this and said we'd always be in her corner, happy to guide her and help her succeed.

Olivia seemed to perk up a little with that. A bowl of ice cream with sprinkles probably did way more for her mood than my little pep talk, though. ... To be fair, I can totally relate!

How would you, or have you, handled your child's disappointment from rejection?

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