I remember being just 6 years old when tragedy struck. I couldn’t find precious Blankie Pie anywhere. He was gone, probably hidden by The Pillows, or worse, stolen by the Doll-Eating Monster that lived in the shadows of my closet.
I had lost my best friend and sleeping companion from when I was born and I wasn’t handling it well (which, for a hysterical, tantrum-throwing Angry Child is the biggest understatement ever).
After countless attempts at trying to find the missing blankie and calming me down, my mother finally gave up, sent me to my room and waited for my father to come home and pacify me.
Whereas my mom would coax me gently, telling me Blankie Pie would be recovered and compassionately brush aside my tears, my father had a completely different parenting style.
“Why are you crying right now? What good is that going to do? Don’t be so quick to react all the time, Laura,” he said, appearing in the doorway.
This would be the first of many instances over the course of my childhood in which he would enter my room, tell me to toughen up, stop the tears and then we could talk.
There were no hysterics or unnecessary dramatics tolerated. If I had a problem, I had to approach it logically, proactively and, most importantly, calmly.
I used to resent what, at the time, I considered to be a brusque uprearing, preferring to be coddled by my mother and told that, yes, my tears were warranted, and no, it wasn’t my fault. Invariably, however, my dad would shortly follow to help me lay down a plan of action and learn from the problem – but not before "toughening up" first.
Fast forward a decade or so and I’m in one of my first jobs out of college. It’s fast-paced and long hours and challenging work and not at all what I’m passionate about. And it seems every early 20-something girl must be feeling the same way because it's all we've talked about since graduating.
Every "Wine and Weird Wednesday" was another forum for someone to break down and cry about her job frustrations. Each night home was spent listening to a friend complaining about the latest minutiae: Someone was overlooked by her boss; the other felt she should have been rewarded for her extra hours. And while most were of this thinking, I did notice that a few of us ladies did have other ways of coping: We just kept on.
As I continue to overhear party conversations about girls clashing with their teammates or expecting promotions within six months of being hired, I couldn’t help but wonder: Are we a generation of softies?
A bad day at work is now considered plausible grounds for a total meltdown. An ounce of what I would regard as “healthy stress” (otherwise known as "caring about something") is a viable excuse for a day off and a prescription pill habit.
As the last generation of women who grew up on Disney princesses relying on the men to rescue them, I sometimes get nervous we don’t know how to step up to the plate and fend for ourselves.
We grew up being told we were the best. Even if we didn’t win the softball championship, we still received awards for participating. When we were told to stand our ground, it was on the condition that we deserved or were entitled to something – not necessarily that we earned it.
We seek recognition for trying our hardest, but in reality, you don’t get credit for doing the right thing. We were told in earnest that we were all special, furthering our egos and setting us up for even greater disappointment when rejection came along.
When a boyfriend breaks up with us, it has everything to do with what’s wrong with him, nothing to do with what’s wrong with us – and that’s because we handle each other with kid gloves.
When work needs to be constructively critiqued for improvement, we feel it also compulsory to surround this criticism with spots of praise, whether our project warrants this or not.
And, on the rare occasion we encounter someone or something or some comment that is incongruous with the heuristics and beliefs we’ve been telling ourselves, we have a very hard time internalizing it.
I’ve thought a lot about my childhood and I’ve realized I’m glad I was raised tough. I’m grateful I was taught to do something about the things I take issue with, instead of being told I am “too special” for them.
After I am unfairly called to the Board for code violation, I am appreciative of my father’s words -- "don’t be so quick to react" -- for it allows me the upper hand.
His words have kept me level-headed under pressure, respected among professional men much more experienced than I am. And his advice to toughen up has especially thickened my skin to hurtful comments on the Internet.
Learning how to cope is an interesting skill and a delicate balance between understanding and taking action. I’m sure being raised tough has had its drawbacks – I’m more inclined to endure abuse for longer without saying anything, or I assume I need to "suck it up" in many instances – but I’d much rather be sticking it out, getting ahead, than crying all the time.
Blankie Pie was eventually found in my aunt’s beach house. I had left it there over a visit the weekend prior, and it got tangled up when she stripped the bedsheets. I remember feeling really, really stupid after my mother hung up the phone to tell me Aunt Em had discovered him in the wash.
I think that is the day I stopped believing in Doll-Eating Monsters.
Top Photo Courtesy: We Heart It