Yesterday Lincoln and I were playing with one of his favorite toys. It’s this crazy Mega Blocks semi-truck that unfolds to become a race track. At the end of the track is a door that the cars get to race through. It’s pretty genius, (statement based solely on the hours of independent playtime that it has generated) and his great aunt Janet was pretty genius too when she picked it out for him!Well, my little boy has recently developed some big muscles and big emotions, and he is learning the hard way that those two things need to be controlled. One of his cars got stuck under the door and in his frustrated attempt to release it, he broke the door off.
I watched this unfold and didn’t help him get the car out when it got stuck because I firmly believe that kids learn to problem solve when they encounter and have to work through small problems like this one. Sometimes it’s hard not to jump in. I could have easily prevented the frustration. And could have easily prevented the door from being broken. But then my little fire-cracker wouldn’t have had the opportunity to experience frustration, and it’s potential consequences, when not handled appropriately.All this said, what happened next made me momentarily question my judgement.
My darling little boy looked at me, tears quickly welling up in his big brown eyes, lip quivering and said, “Momma, help please. Fix please.” Immediately he began shaking his head and covered his eyes with his hands.
He was so, so hurt. His favorite toy was broken. I kid you not, I had to fight back tears at that moment. Not because of the broken truck, but because my little one had hurt feelings for (what I think was) the first time.
Since this moment I’ve been thinking about the struggles that I remember from my own childhood, teenage years, and even recent heartbreaks. How did/do my parents survive it? How do any parents survive it… watching your child experience hurt?
There are times when we have to allow our children to suffer in order for them to learn, like this one. I have no doubt that in the future I will have to allow Lincoln to make choices that will lead to pain, because if he’s anything like I was, he will learn some of his most deeply rooted and impactful lessons from his mistakes.
On the other hand, there are times that our children will suffer and it is completely out of our control. We can’t protect them always. We can’t prevent the hurt that they will inevitably experience.
Later that night I told Mitchell what had happened and how hard it was to see Lincoln hurt, even in such a guided, safe situation. Just describing it to him, I felt my chest tighten a little. Not because of the silly truck. But because I knew that it was only a tiny little drop in a deep sea of hurt he will likely experience in his lifetime. Because that is part of life. And now I know, it is also part of parenting.
The broken truck door turned out to be a learning experience for both of us. Lincoln learned what happens when you react out of frustration instead of thinking it through. I learned that even in the moments where I feel like I am intentionally shaping my child’s learning and growth, there’s little I can do to control the outcome of his choices and experiences.
Except pray. Pray to be a resource to him as he navigates life’s obstacles and adventures. Pray for the ability to guide him intentionally through whatever path he chooses. Pray for the wisdom to know when to help and when to step aside. And pray for the strength to lean on the Lord when my heart feels broken because his is.
I don’t regret my decision to allow Lincoln to experience this obstacle, despite the fact that it led to a struggle for both of us… I am also very thankful that I was able to fix the truck door.
Moms and dads, how do you do it? How do you handle experiences like these? What are your strategies for keeping it together when your children struggle or are truly hurt?