Rejection painful regardless of age

By Anita Doberman: Columnist

It’s hard to accept rejections.

For children, first rejections are even more painful because they become aware that the outside world can be a tough place, and they may not get what they want when they want it. It also shows them that mommy or daddy can’t make it better.

This week my firstborn daughter, Luisa, got a taste of real-life rejections. She wasn’t accepted into the competitive gymnastic team she tried out for. To make things worse, her younger sister, Anna, only 4, was asked to be on the team and praised for her natural talents.

Anna was ecstatic and kept yelling, “I am the goodest! I am in the ’petitive gymnastic.” Being younger than Luisa, Anna is always trying to catch up to her older sister who gets to experience things first by virtue of being the firstborn.

I was very happy that Anna would do something on her own, and that she was excited about it. I didn’t want to take away from her happiness, but also wanted to comfort Luisa.

It’s not easy being told that you aren’t good enough, as a child or as an adult. Even now, having experienced many rejections as a writer, I can honestly admit that there have been times when it was hard to swallow that pill. Hearing “No, thank you, we enjoyed your submission, but don’t have space at the moment” or the tougher, “Why would anyone ever want to read this piece?” is not easy.

Sometimes I too felt like my 6-year-old daughter, and wanted to dwell in my rejection-induced mood – down, pouty, needing chocolate and hubby who is usually deployed, so needing even more chocolate. But after a few hours or days of having experienced the post-rejection mood, there comes the time to move on and tough it out.

So, I let my daughter cry and sob, and tell me how unfair it was. I patted her back and listened by nodding my head. Later when she was calmer, I told her that I knew how hard this rejection had been for her. I shared that I also have experienced many rejections as a young girl and as an adult, but that these experiences had helped me to figure out what I really wanted and why I wanted it and made me work harder to achieve my goal.

Luisa listened intensely and told me she understood. As I was about to leave her room she sat up straight on her bed and explained:
“You are right, Mommy. I don’t want to do gymnastic. I want to be on the cheerleading team!” I told her to sleep on it, and that we could talk about it the next day.

All I have to do right now is e-mail my husband in Iraq, and tell him the only thing he doesn’t want to hear: his daughter wants to be a cheerleader.

We’ll see how that goes. I foresee a flat-out rejection from hubby and the need to find some new sport interests for her.