As the roof started sliding down, I could see by his furrowed eyebrows and frown he was getting frustrated. Just five minutes earlier he had been excited and eager to put together his gingerbread house all by himself. Now, as the roof feel and the side walls gave way though, he simply stepped back and started falling apart himself.
“I can’t do it. I can’t do it!”
I rushed in, calling my mom and husband over for reinforcements. Together we held the walls and started adding more frosting where it had dried.
“Michael, it’s OK. If you can’t do it on your own, it’s totally OK. Look at how much farther you were able to do on your own than last year.”
“No! It’s ugly! The frosting is everywhere! It doesn’t look the way I want it to. Look at Sophia’s and Dad’s. Their’s are good. Mine’s not!” He stormed out of the room, as the rest of us tried to hold his little, frosting-splattered home together.
I looked at my husband, and knew he could handle repairing the gingerbread house. It was my job to try to repair our little boy’s confidence.
I found him curled up on the couch in the living room, around the corner. It was a good sign. He hadn’t gone to his room, He was still where he could hear us and be close to us. I sat down beside him and put my hand on his leg, trying to figure out what to say.
“I’m sorry that happened, Michael.”
I paused, praying my words wouldn’t make things worse.
“I know you were really excited to build that all by yourself. But we all need help sometimes. Even I do. It’s good to know when to ask for help.”
Deep breath. Wondering if anything I was saying was even kind of close to helping.
“There are many times I need to ask your Dad or my Mom or even God for help. There are many times things don’t go the way I plan. What matters is that we keep trying. As long as we never give up, we will be able to do it.”
Parenting is about so much more than late night feedings and diaper changing. It’s about learning everything you need to know yourself, because you are helping someone ELSE figure it out. It’s a hands on experience for both of you.
There is NO WAY to have all the answers and know how to use them, until you are there in the trenches, amid frosting and sprinkles, elbows deep in emotions that a little nine year old mind is still trying to understand. And when the answers do come to you, they are whispers to your own soul which you pass on to them, that you hope will be heard by their little heart. I find myself simultaneously speaking and praying all the time, trying to say words that will help while I’m praying they will.
He came to me. He embraced me, not just hugged, but EMBRACED ME. Not all tantrums end up like this, but when they do, you savor it.
He came back to the party and we finished that gingerbread house. And a week later, it’s still standing.