I had an interesting conversation this afternoon with Gerry. He’s my oldest, and at “almost eight years old” he is wise and emotional beyond his years. Today, he was already in a mood when he came home from school, and 15 minutes later he was sitting in front of me with tears in his eyes. After a few minutes of quiet sobbing and my prodding, he held his hand out to show me what was causing him such pain.
A broken Silly Band.
That’s right, a Silly Band. Since I had prohibited him from taking them to school, he came home and ran right up to his room to figure out which ones he wanted to trade with his friends later. And he broke one. A purple baseball mitt. This tiny 30 cent rubber band was causing all the angst.
It’s moments like these when you know as a parent you can say one of two things – what you really want to say, and what you really should say. What I really wanted to say was “Are you kidding? It’s a rubber band! And you have 70 more upstairs just like it!”.
But of course, that’s not what I said. I told him I was sorry it broke, I knew it was special to him, but we should focus on the fact that he still had many more to trade and we could replace this one if we needed to. I told him we could look at it as if the glass was “half full” and not “half empty”.
I could tell that this expression, while new to him, was intriguing, since he had just started studying fractions at school. I explained to him that it meant we could think about the situation one of two ways – focusing on the negative part that one of his Silly Bands was broken, or we could look at the bright side, which was there was a whole bag full of them still upstairs, and I bet we could find another special one in there to trade.
I realized as I was saying these words to him that it was good advice for my own daily life. So many days I only see the downside of things – the tantrums, the difficulties dealing with Howie’s behavior, the physical and mental exhaustion that ends every day. When you’re stuck in the muck of the minute-to-minute struggles of parenthood, it’s hard to step outside your own head and see how good things are. We have three amazing young boys who make us laugh everyday. They are happy and healthy and enjoy being together (well, as much as three brothers can). Our kids are well liked and other kids (and their parents) want to be their friends. When looking at the big picture, I can’t really ask for more than that.
I looked at Gerry and he was already getting a smile on his face. “Hey,” he said, “Maybe I can trade the broken one for free like my friend did when his Silly Band broke!” He ran upstairs to put the broken one back in the bag with the other 70 ones.
I turned my attention back to Howie and Lewis. They were taking turns driving Hot Wheels cars down a track that the kids had put together earlier. All three kids were happy and content at the same time. For a brief moment, this glass was all the way full.
“Some things in life are bad…They can really make you mad…Other things just make you swear and curse.
When you’re chewing on life’s gristle, Don’t grumble, give a whistle. And this’ll help things turn out for the best.
And…Always look on the bright side of life” – Monty Python