One year later and I am taken back in my mind to a moment that occurred during last years Halloween festivities. After a long and very fun day of trick or treating and eating way to much of our treats, my son and I were headed out the door of our friends home. In that moment the sword from his pirate costume broke in half. He immediately got this look on his face that let me know his heart was broken and the tears were only seconds away from flowing. He stared at me as his bottom lip quivered and emotion displayed in his eyes, as he made one last silent plea for me to somehow fix it. Of course there was nothing I could do except to prepare myself for the crisis I was about to face.
As the tears began flowing and the sobbing began I wanted nothing more than to somehow make my son feel better. I remember kneeling down to hold him in my arms tightly, letting him cry on my shoulder. As he cried I searched for ways to somehow help him through the situation and to fell better. The words began flowing as I made the attempt to calm him down. I made statements like, “it’s ok,” “it’s only a toy sword,” “Halloween is over anyway,” and “we can always buy a new one.” He eventually calmed down and we ventured home, where he passed out in the car, purely exhausted and full of way to much sugar.
As I sat back and thought about the event that night, I remember feeling a sense of discontent around how I had handled it in my heart. I knew that I had acted in love and with the intent to help my son to feel better, but I couldn’t rid my sense of feeling that I had missed the mark. Eventually, the answer to my unease became apparent, as I understood that my son needed me to validate his feelings much more than he had needed me to make him feel better. I quickly understood that even though to me it was only a small toy that had broken and that in the grand scheme of things it was not a big deal, to my son it was a very big deal. That sword was very important to him for his own reasons and it breaking mattered to him enough to make his heart hurt enough to cry.
The next morning over breakfast I decided to talk to him about it and offer him my apology. I let him know that I was sorry for not giving him what he needed in that moment. I let him know that I understood just how important that sword really was and how disappointed he felt for it to have broken. I validated the way he had felt and his reaction to those feelings. We quickly moved on with our day, as like most other four year olds, the moment had passed and he was on to more important topics like what game we were going to play now. I do think though that taking that opportunity to really see and validate my son, as well as express my apology and learning from the situation, was an important and invaluable gesture in conscious parenting.