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Random thoughts on “tough love” and parental guilt

I am waiting to find out if my daughter Stella will be getting a cast on her arm. In fact, I’ve been waiting anxiously since 4 pm. If she comes home sporting one, she will be the first of our children to have one. Not the first to break anything, since, strictly speaking, it could be said that she broke her two front teeth (baby ones, the adult ones have since grown in).

And as I wait, I am having a lot of random thoughts. Many of which return to: “Why the heck won’t my husband carry a cellphone!” But *ahem*, we won’t go into that.


When I was young, I wouldn’t say that my parents enacted “tough love” … but I can’t quite place my tongue on the right phrase for it.

It was the kind of love that didn’t let you stay home from school with any ol’ feined illness. Also the kind that didn’t run up to you with a pained look of sympathy when you limped in the door after running around the neighborhood. Rather, it was the kind that looked at you calmly and said, “what’s up?” And then, “oh, well, it happens. We’ll let it rest and it will probably be okay.”

It’s not that they didn’t take injuries seriously (my mom is an RN … and a super-amazing one at that), just that they weren’t going to be parents to that whining child who couldn’t take a hit on a sports field or learn to work through some minor discomfort for priorities such as school. (Although, to be fair, I’m guessing here. They never actual told me that this was a specific philosophy or what the rationale was. So, Mom or Dad, feel free to drop in your two cents on this!)

As a child, I do recall thinking every now and then that I could really have truly broken my ankle into a bazillion bits and my parents would barely glance my way. But then again I was terribly dramatic most of the time.

And now? Now, I want to follow in their footsteps. (Although, this probably doesn’t come as a surprise to readers who caught my post “Hyper-Parents & Coddled Kids.”) I think that this kind of parenting has contributed to raising four adults that are hard-working and grateful for their health.


I recall that when Stella was a toddler, Hubby and I were committed to letting her expore the world without the restrictions sometimes placed on girls.

Nothing annoys me more than hearing “He throws like a girl,” or “He runs like a girl.” Quite simply, it means that girls are inferior in throwing or running — or whatever the particular slag of the day is — and that being referred to as a girl is an insult. Hello? Why is “girl” a negative adjective! 

But I recognize that to overcome some of this gender slander, we actually need to teach our girls, for example, how to throw and run properly when they’re young. It’s too old to learn how to run properly when you’re a teenager and want to try out for a sports team. These are basic life skills that are best learned as early as possible IMO. So, we’ve given Stella tips on these kind of skills so that she can fine-tune them and then hopefully build on them as she gets older.

Back to when she was a toddler ….I’ve seen many parents of boys hold themselves back for a moment if their son takes a tumble to see if the child will simply get up, shake themselves off and keep going. If they don’t, then the parent will provide comfort. But we both noticed this wasn’t as common a reaction with the parents of girls. So, hubby and I developed our own litmus test. We would ask ourselves: “Would we behave this way if she was a boy?”


Sometimes it’s hard to be more of the “tough love” type than the “coddling” type. Mostly due to guilt. When there is an injury, you kick yourself (hard!) and wonder if you should have told him/her to bike more slowly, to have limited them to a lower height on the tree, etc.

But I still stick with the more “tough love” routine because I don’t want one of my children to be that high school student who claims that they had a runny nose that impeded them from writing their exam. In many cases, the parent will back the student up … and I’ve seen how this can be successfully carried through into the university years. But in the workplace? Not so much. And if you can’t succeed in the workplace, life as an adult can be pretty miserable. Sure, one doesn’t need a ton of money to be happy, but one needs enough to pay the bills and see a bit of the world every now and then.


About a week ago, Stella had a fall from a new playstructure in the neighbourhood. She landed in such a way that her wrist or lower arm area ached the next day. We assured her that we understood that it ached but that these kinds of things sometimes happen when you’re having fun and it would likely feel better in a couple of days.

Fast forward to last night … Stella tells me that her arm is still bothering her. I just looked at her casually as I was doing the dishes and said, “Well, there’s nothing I can do about, honey. Just get some sleep.” Apparently she must have approached hubby when she didn’t get a decent response from me. He gave her arm a thorough check-over and thought it could be possible that she has a slight crack … not a break obviously, but something. I continued with my nonchalence and said, “Well, they don’t cast cracks. I think you just have to let it heal.”

Nevertheless, he decided to pick her up at the end of the school day and take her to a walk-in clinic to get it checked out. And low and behold, the clinic sent him on to the hospital with a suspected crack that could require a cast.


I just got a call from hubby. They’ve had the x-ray and now they’re waiting for results. I talked to both of them, and both are more concerned about their growling bellies than the potential for a cast. So me and Max might need to drive out there with a special delivery of food to tie them over. Food delivery can erase any lingering feelings of irrational guilt, right?


  1. Awwww, **hugs** for your Mommy heart. Here’s a story to make you feel better, at my expense, hehe:  As you know, we have four kiddos and unless there is an artery spurting blood we do NOT go to the clinic/hospital.  When we were living in England, Mae & Delsin were arsing around chasing each other and Mae tripped over a toy on the floor and Delsin, hot in pursuit, tripped over Mae.  He hit the floor with a thud followed by screams and tears…no basements means concrete floors that we had covered in very unforgiving laminate flooring.  The protests stopped quickly and he assured me that he was fine, okey-dokey.  The next morning, he comes downstairs and he is holding his upper body in an odd manor so I ask why he is holding his arm next to his body in such a weird way.  He insists that he is “fine” but my Mommy “spidey sense” is tingling so I take a closer look…his collarbone is very obviously deformed. ARGH!!  So “Mother-of-the-year” ME takes him to emergency and, sure enough, he has broken his collarbone.  Ugh.  It turns out that, like a broken toe, there is not much they do other than tell you to “keep them as quiet and calm as possible” (pbbbthbt, yeah RIGHT!) or try to keep his arm in a sling. Hahahahaha!  He survived, the bone healed and you would never know anything was amiss.  So the moral of the story is, we don’t know everything as parents and kids can break bones right under our watchful eyes. 😉  

    • Laura, Thank you for Mommy-heart hugs! But also, thanks for this story … told with such style that I can almost hear your voice telling it. You rock on the Mom-front my friend :)

  2. Mjpurcell says:

    Ah Julie, you and my mom can talk…she sent my older brother to school when he had slipped on the ice coming home for lunch. After checking his arm she said it was just a bruise. He slipped again on the way back to school after lunch. Two calls from him later and then a call from the teacher and she picked him up from school saying that if they found out it was just a bruise she would be really angry with him because she was late for work….result – broken arm, doctors told her if he had fallen again on the ice, he would have had permanent nerve damage and likely limited use of his arm – lucky thing she had brought him in.

    My grandma was an RN (and like your mom, a very good one) – I always teased my mom that while she followed grandma’s “dust yourself off” approach, grandma had the medical training to tell her when that was the right thing to do and just being raised by an RN did NOT give my mom the same training.

    This will give Stella a great story that she will razz you about when she becomes an adult and then she’ll have this post to look back on and know how much you care.

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