Mindfulness Parenting: The Missing Piece

What is a cat without a patch of its fur? This thought would go through my head. It had been a few years since I had put together a puzzle, at least one that did not involve pegs that stuck out, or a character from Frozen. One evening, while doing chores, I found myself beckoned by this 300-piece feline enveloped in flowers, ready to come to life, in its shiny new wrapped box. My father had sent it as a gift a year ago, before he passed away. I felt moved to take this task to completion.

As these projects often do, it took over the table. Soon I found myself imploring the children to clear the table for dinner time, “But leave my puzzle alone! You can add to it but don’t subtract, and certainly don’t put it back in the box!” My teen was most aghast.

“So, you want us to put our stuff away but leave your puzzle out?” Was it so hard to understand how to set a dinner place settings around this ill formed conglomeration of patches of fur and flowers? Eventually, the family resigned itself to the understanding that it would simply be a part of the family until many brief moments of free time and urgency collided to orchestrate the finale.

As the puzzle neared its final form, intrigue and interest seemed to develop around its completion. I would find helpers occasionally adding to the construction of this delicate composition. We laughed at how some pieces seemed to reveal themselves quickly while others, more determined, took their time. They would hide in plain sight until ready, and not a moment sooner.

At some point, it hit me how this was like parenting. During confusion and conflict, I could chase one behavior in an all-out war to stop it. Meanwhile, there is often something right in front of my face, which, if attended to, would render the other problem a non-issue. How many times have we, as parents, struggled so much at fixing one behavior that we lose sight of the big picture? Well, I was about to learn about that in the biggest lesson, at the end.

Just when I thought the task was complete, a missing piece revealed itself! But what is this? A new puzzle. How could there be a piece missing? Quickly, a search team was established and no floor or Lego table was unturned. Well, more like 5 minutes later I was faced with shrugged shoulders and those words you are never ready to hear, “It’s gone. I’m sorry, Mommy, but it’s gone forever.”

It’s ok, they reassured me, but I was in denial. For the next few weeks, I would be ready to spot the missing piece at any moment. People would stop by and comment on how sad and unfortunate it was. Meanwhile, the cat sat dignified despite its flaw. I noticed something had happened for me. I had changed my response to the defect. Yes, there was something absent, but what was present was much greater. And this, to me, is what being a parent is all about; guiding while cultivating what is already there.

I believe that puzzle piece that hid in a mini-kitchen drawer along with its plastic pepperoni and rubber brains was there for a reason. To her joy, my four year old discovered it a month later, just when I had learned what I needed to.

Now that it was finished, it was ready to be taken apart and put away. I had actually grown to appreciate the missing piece, not only for all of its imperfection, but for its perfection. Dad would be proud!


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