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Sobbing 3rd Grader: Addie’s Failed Day at School and My Incompetence as a Father

addie1Summer vacation is officially over for our family. Addie headed back to school last week. She began her first day of 3rd grade with a teacher that she was excited about and with kids she knew from previous classes. One of the kids in her class was her best friend at school, so Addie came home stoked for her year in 3rd grade.

After the first three days of school, I thought we were headed towards a pretty easy year and then I got home on that first Friday and walked in on a sobbing Addie.

While at school on that Friday, Addie received an official letter from the school in an official looking envelope with lots of official looking words and sentences on the official looking paper. The letter explained that there were too many kids in each 3rd grade class and that the school had an extra, new 2nd grade teacher who was going to be moved up to the 3rd grade. The letter identified Addie as one of the students who was going to be moved into the extra 3rd grade class with that new teacher.  Addie was devastated and she quickly turned into a sobbing 3rd grader.

Casey was pretty upset with how the move was handled by the school. The letter explained that Addie was given the opportunity to tour her new classroom, but it didn’t turn out to be true. We as parents weren’t given any warning so that we could soften the blow with Addie. Instead, the first Addie learned of it was from that official looking letter that was given to her while she was in school. When I got home and saw Addie sobbing, I could tell that Casey was so caught up with her anger at the school that it was not helping Addie get over the feelings she was going through. In fact, Addie went so far as to proclaim that she wished she was a dead cicada.

Me being me, I decided to take over and calm Addie’s emotions. As I looked at my sobbing 3rd grader on the floor, I realized I was completely in unfamiliar territory. I may have grown up with sisters, but I never cared when they were sad. It was never my responsibility to fix whatever was wrong with them.

So, I gave Addie the ol’ “You’ll get over it and be okay!” speech. Half way through my speech, Casey interrupted and said, “You’re doing a terrible job being a parent right now.” The thing is… I knew that I wasn’t giving the right speech. I wasn’t giving Addie’s emotions the attention they really deserved and I knew I was doing a crappy job. I stopped my speech and I looked at Casey and I said, “I know I’m doing a terrible job, but it’s all I know how to do.” As soon as I finished my sentence, Addie burst out laughing because she also knew how terrible I was at what I was doing.

Thankfully, that moment helped Addie get through her little sobbing party, but I can tell that I am completely in over my head as a father of two girls. The older Addie gets, the more and more I feel like I have a bag over my head that cannot be removed. It prevents me from being able to see where I’m going and what I’m doing when it comes to making parental decisions.

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