I’ve been thinking a lot about rejection lately. I’ve been shopping my novel around to agents and they’ve been telling me, “No thank you.” I expected to be rejected repeatedly before finding someone who wanted to represent me but it doesn’t make the sting any more fun. The night of my first rejection letter, I cried for two hours, while saying to Dan, “I don’t know why I’m crying.”
But I did know why I was crying. I want everyone to like me and be excited about my work and to validate me and want to work with me. I want acceptance, not rejection.
Magoo asked me if I thought anyone would ever want to publish my book and I said, “Yes. I know they will because I will never stop trying.” Again, that determination doesn’t make repeated rejection any more fun.
I’ve been struck this week by how badly I want acceptance and I’ve been noticing this same need in my kids. They are constantly petitioning me to love them and accept them and to tell them that they are okay. These petitions come in little ways, holding my hand while we’re sitting together in church, asking me to tell them a story at bedtime, telling me a joke, or showing me the picture they drew on the bus. They’re even looking for acceptance when they sass me.
How often do I give them little rejection letters by being only partially engaged in our conversations or telling them I’m too tired to walk up stairs and snuggle with them at bedtime? Too often. In every look, gesture, and use of my time when we’re together, to some degree, I am showing my kids acceptance or rejection.
It won’t be much longer that they want me to tuck them in or hold them on my lap. In a couple of years I may have to beg them to share their school work with me or tell me about the book they’re reading and I’m going to wish I was more attentive and more free with acceptance when they were begging for my approval.
We all hate rejection and after a certain amount of it, we just give up. I’m not saying I’m the wicked witch of the west to my kids but I know that I have it in me to give them more of my time and attention than I currently do.
I’m far from suggesting that you never say no to your children. Like a busy literary agent, I must say no to my kids frequently in order to teach them and to maintain order in our house. However, unlike a literary agent, I only have three children and one husband and I love all four of them. I need to think, do I really need to say no to this request (whether expressed verbally or not) or I can make this happen to validate my child?
I also need to think about how I say no. I received two rejection letters in two days last week. One was kind and validating, even as it rejected me. The other was cold and formulaic, and sounded like he hadn’t even read my stuff.
When I tell my kids no, I can be thoughtful and loving. I don’t need to always act out of instinct. I find that things go far better for everyone if I say yes unless I have a really good reason to say no, than if I say no unless they can convince me to say yes.
So, yeah. They can always use more love. I’m learning firsthand what repeated rejection feels like and I’d like to spare my family that feeling as often as I can. I’ll listen to their lame jokes with both ears and a willingness to be entertained. I’ll take an extra minute to cuddle with them, even though I’m SO busy. I’ll more frequently play trains with Wanda and do a Mario Kart race with Magoo after homework is done and sometimes I’ll even let Laylee pick all the music while we’re driving in the car.
They can get rejection at school or at work when they’re older. In my house, I choose acceptance.
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