[3 minute read]
There’s nothing that snaps you back to reality faster than hearing your 3 1/2-year-old shout out your go-to phrase. When I glanced up and saw that she was in a heated tug-o-war with a cheese stick and I had to root her on ringside. Those little guys are no joke!
My first instinct was to rip the cheese stick out of her hands and relieve her of the struggling. Okay, full disclosure: my first REAL instinct was to ignore the situation entirely, high-five her with kudos for using her choice word in the right context and carry on with my day. Kids have earmuffs. Parents have blinders.
Instead? I watched. I stood staring as her little hands kept pulling and slipping on the plastic that was now gnawed and dripping with saliva like a St. Bernard’s chew toy and I thought to myself, I can relieve you of this suckage and fuel my quick-fix to-do list “Next! “ brain but really, if you can’t help yourself open a cheese stick then what hope do you have? Some people may call this borderline neglect or completely unnecessary. To those people I once again say, if you can’t help yourself open a cheese stick then what hope do you have?! Yes, the situation could have been easily remedied by me saving the day. The struggle for relief and satisfaction is real. For sure. It is. But if I were to swoop in and open the cheese stick, it would be about me relieving my needs. Not hers. It would have nothing to do with her. Yes, I could’ve easily relieved us both from her whining and grunting in an instant. But it would be about me fixing the problem – not her.
God knows I can completely relate to the frustration of struggling to open a container that holds your golden grub when you’ve already morphed into a hangry, vicious gremlin. So, I felt guilty – for .5 seconds and then realized that this is Problem Solving 101. This was a perfect moment to start building critical thinking skills, stick-with-it-ness, self-reliance, and even resiliency. (Never knew those little tasty suckers packed such a punch, did ya?) If figuring “it” out can’t start with a quarter foot of cheddar then with what? And, yes, if experiencing the discomfort and intense irritation of not being able to open a cheese stick is her biggest problem, then she’s really got it made. That First World problem was not lost on me. What else wasn’t lost? The fact that any moment I can teach my kids how to figure out a problem, I will do my best to be aware enough to take a breath and a backseat. Yes, of course, there are times to wave the white flag and ask for help but they have to learn how to be creative in their thinking first. That is where true satisfaction lives and breathes and gives your soul a cannonball in the lake feeling of exhilaration! This is where the seeds of self-confidence are sowed and then, what do you know, her perseverance and “try try again” attitude are what lead her to give back to First World and Third World countries.
If this little dairy queen is going to learn how to navigate her way through the inevitable bumps in the road, to ultimately reach her goals, she needs to start now. There is no better satisfaction than knowing that the hard work, sweat, and saliva in this case, that you put in, is what helped you achieve your goal – no matter the size. Knowing that you were a huge part of making it happen is so so gratifying. This is how it builds. One day it’s opening a cheese stick and next thing you know, it’s learning how to drive stick. Or joining an all-girl band and having the built-in resilience to face and overcome all of the challenges to reach your ultimate goal of touring Europe.
All started with a cheese stick. Imagine that.
Will it take a few more minutes out of the day to make sure that these teaching moments happen on the reg? Without a doubt. But it’s either 20 minutes of brain-bending now or 20 years of therapy later. Not really a toss up.
As I watched this little red-faced and determined force of nature huff and puff, with a grunt, an “UGGGGHHH!” and a hollered “Cheese is rice!!” ( Toddler translation of “Jesus Christ”), I felt solid pride. And then, Ta-da!! The plastic lost its battle and the cheese stick was free at last! She looked up, her wide eyes filled with equal parts delight and surprise, and took a very long overdue and well-deserved chomp. I could’ve sworn I even saw her grow a half an inch right before my eyes. And from the look of satisfaction on her face, it was the best damn cheese stick she ever had.
Satisfaction (dir Joan Freeman, 1988) A group of teenagers has a band, Mystery, with Jennie as the lead singer. They go to a bar at the coast and play during the summer. Jennie falls in love with the owner of the bar, Martin. They get an offer to play in Europe and perhaps become famous. But are they ready for it?