You never forget the first time you got your heart broken. Even though it was two decades ago, I’ll always remember my first heartbreak. It was my sophomore year of high school, when my boyfriend at the time asked another girl to the Homecoming dance. This was not just any girl – she was a senior, on the Homecoming Court, and of course, she was absolutely stunning. Like me, my boyfriend was a sophomore, but also happened to be the star running back on our high school’s football team. His ego was already huge thanks to that, but now his head was about to burst because of who his date was. Of course, I was devastated – I thought for sure he was “The One” and our love would stand the test of time. Silly me. I was a hopeless romantic. Or maybe just totally naive. Ahh, young love.
I remember secretly blaming my mom for this break-up. Somehow it had to be her fault because she was the one who “made” me go on a work trip to San Diego with her. Thoughts such as, “If only I could’ve gone to the dance with him, maybe I wouldn’t have been dumped for this other chick,” permeated through my mind. This was the second year in a row that one of my mom’s work trips happened to fall at the same time as my Homecoming weekend. How dare she make me miss another year of Homecoming fun?
Freshman year, I missed out on everything because I just had to go Washington DC with her to meet President Bill Clinton in the Oval Office. (Funny how your priorities change when you mature.) That year it was a different guy though, but he wasn’t half the asshole The Jock was – I think he went to the dance with some of his friends or something. I remember pleading with my mom to let me stay home with a friend so that I could attend the parade, football game, and dance. Again, how silly of me. Actually, how absolutely ridiculous of me. As always, mama knows best – I’m really glad that I stuck with the DC trip. It was 100% more memorable.
My first experience with heartbreak left me feeling like my world was coming to an end. I was convinced that the internal anguish would never end. But of course, it did. And I survived. In fact, there would be plenty more broken hearts and tears over boys, each one helping me to build my resilience and character.
Although I can look back at my first heartbreak and not cry, I realize that sooner or later, my daughter will have her first encounter with a broken heart – I’m already dreading it, but it is an inevitable part of growing up – a rite of passage, as some say. My girl is almost 14, not nearly as boy-crazy as I was, and is definitely the type who would rather take a vacation any day than go to some lame dance. And I have a feeling that the boys will be chasing her, rather than the other way around. Bless their hearts. Plus, she is so much stronger than I ever was. Her father is in her life, so she’s not looking for anything to fill the void that I was searching for as a teen. I already told the story of my daddy issues, so please don’t judge me for being a little boy-crazy during my youth.
Getting over a broken heart is never easy, no matter your age or even how long it lasted. The teenage girl inside of me will always remember what it feels like. It’s a feeling that I wouldn’t wish upon anyone, let alone my own children. And while, as parents, we aren’t there to “fix it” or change what happened – we must be be a sounding board for them and just love them through it.
One day, when my daughter begins to date, and consequently goes through her Taylor Swift phases of heartbreak, I will try my best to help her pick up the pieces (once she’s done all the venting that she needs). The pain that she’ll endure will be completely new for her, and with her limited life experience she may lack the tools to cope with it all on her own. So, in the throngs of despair, I’ll be a shoulder to cry on as she rises up to the challenge and deals with the grief head-on. Because, as her mother, it will be my job to provide her with a safe place to turn to when she’s hurting, while providing her some perspective. Of course, I won’t impose myself and offer any unsolicited advice until she asks for it. And if she doesn’t want to hear my advice that’s fine, too. I will let her lead the way.
I’ll be a shoulder to cry on as she rises up to the challenge and deals with the grief head-on.
I am lucky that my daughter is very open with me and likes to talk about her feelings, and thus far, has turned to me whenever she needs help navigating her way through friendship struggles. She even shares with me all the latest drama going on at the middle school. I know that this very well may change in the future, but I can only hope that she would turn to me once that inevitable break-up day arrives – I will most certainly be there for her, for it’s a moment in time I remember all too well.
Here are some of the ways I will show my support and unconditional love:
First and foremost, I will be present. I will let my daughter know that I am there for her. I will encourage her to talk about what she’s going through. I will tell her that her feelings matter, and that they are real. And I will listen without judgment. I will encourage her not to run away from the pain she is feeling, and I will remind her that she can’t expect to bounce back overnight.
I won’t tell her to “just get over it”. I’ll let her know that it’s OK to cry and give her space to allow the tears to flow – sometimes all we need is a good cry. As Mama Bear, this will not be easy, and it will feel as if my heart has been ripped open, too. I can’t just put a band-aid on her wound and kiss it like I did when she was a little girl. This is one of the toughest parts of parenting a teen. There is no magic fix.
I won’t tell her that the boy she’s crying over is not worth her tears, because in her eyes that love was real. First loves are so magical. I would never dismiss her loss as unimportant. Instead, I will empathize with her and comfort her. If she wants to stay home from school the next day, I’ll let her. And then I will take her to lunch. That is one thing my younger self would have wanted. Besides, my girl is always down for lunch with her Mama.
I will tell her how much I love her and give her lots of hugs. I will tell her that she is enough and remind her of all the good things she brings to the world. I will tell her over and over again that she is strong and that her self-worth does not hinge on what any boy thinks about her.
I will say these words to her, “Love yourself and be patient. This too shall pass”. I will promise her that with time, things will only get better – time most certainly heals all wounds. I’ll tell her that although sometimes things do get worse before they get better, pretty soon, when she’s so busy focusing on herself, each day when she wakes up the pain will begin to subside.
I’ll tell her that it’s OK to hit her pillows, or to even have a “memorabilia burning” party. (Been there, done that.)
Even though she won’t be able to see it in the moment, I will tell her that down the road, she will be thankful for what the relationship taught her – the wisdom and emotional growth she is gaining is priceless. Having her heart shattered will show her what situations not to walk into again, while helping her to learn exactly she deserves.
I will give her hope. I will assure her that in order to find her one true love, she must go through a few others first. She is young and has so many more chapters ahead of her, and one day, she will meet someone who will turn her whole world around (in a good way, I hope).
At this point in her life, I won’t expect her to believe all of these clichés (but I’ll tell her, anyway) – it wasn’t until I was on the other side of heartbreak, that I could truly see their worth.
I will remind my daughter the importance of having gratitude, and to think of at least one thing that she is grateful for when she rises every morning.
I will do my best to give her ways to take her mind off her sorrows by engaging her in activities that will make her laugh again – laughter really is one of life’s best medicines!
We will indulge in ice cream as we binge watch her favorite shows together, and we’ll listen to music because of the way it understands our deepest emotions – there is a reason why there are so many songs written about a broken heart. And, of course, we will go shopping, because sometimes all a girl needs is a little retail therapy.
Then, once her pain has diminished, I will crawl into bed with her, stroke her hair, and tell her the stories of my first heartbreaks and how each one made me grow. And one day, when she’s a grown woman, I’ll tell her about the time when I conquered my biggest heartbreak of all…