I’ve broken up a lot of fights between my two kids. I’ve calmed a thousand tears and negotiated the release of hundreds of toys seized too early or too quickly from a sibling.
On one such occasion, my four year old broke an intricate LEGO® Star Wars set put together by my eight year old. The tears flowed and the accusations began between the two of them about who was really at fault. Having ended a particularly bad day myself, I wanted to just send them both to bed and revel in the quiet of the evening. My patience had been tried by work, doctors’ appointments, traffic, a meh dinner, and several fights that occurred previously in the day. I asked my little one to help his big brother put the set back together again. After some time, that solution proved too difficult for his unsteady hands, and I knew there was only one solution for my distraught eight year old: Mommy.
It’s not that my kiddo couldn’t put the set back together on his own. After all, he built it all by himself on Christmas Day without any intervention. He was upset, and his sadness clouded his ability to think logically and to resolve this tragedy on his own. I knelt on the floor of his room and gathered the pieces together. Together, we sought out the instructions and found the page on which to begin.
As we started, a piece would fall off or the set would become unsteady — and as a result, the tears would flow again. As we built, however, my son brightened. He changed his mindset and began to seek out solutions when we hit trouble. His demeanor improved, and within 20 minutes, the set was made whole and put back on display on his shelves.
I don’t care about Star Wars, and to be honest, LEGO sets aren’t my favorite things either. I don’t know why my son builds models and displays them in his room without playing with them, nor do I understand why they’re important enough to cry over. But by taking a step back and seeing the situation not as an inconsequential toy but instead as a task my son was having to accomplish again, I better understood his devastation.
I was reminded of something that is easy to forget when your patience runs low. My son wasn’t trying to be difficult and fuel the flames of the fire, nor was he trying to ensure justice was brought to his little brother. I saw him as a person who valued something and wasn’t just annoyed at his brother for breaking it — but was crushed that his hard work wasn’t recognized. More important, I saw him as a kid who wanted to be happy and helpful but needed a little encouragement to get there. Once he felt validated and cared for, his demeanor changed.
After building the set, we spent the rest of the evening snuggled as we watched a movie together. His needs were met, and I still got my downtime. That’s a win all around.