While visiting family last month, my preschooler said she wanted to buy her cousin a balloon. Encouraging this polite behavior, I bought her a balloon to give to her cousin. But when she saw the balloon, she burst out crying — because there was no balloon for her. I reminded her that a) she had gotten FOUR balloons recently, and b) she was doing something special for her cousin — and how very nice that was. Try as she might, she was not getting a balloon.
My mom watched this whole scene go down. She was almost in tears herself. She pleaded with me to get my daughter a balloon, too, to reward her for doing something nice for her cousin. I stood my ground — and had two females who I loved dearly mad at me.
Why? Why did I make this a big deal? Why didn’t I reward my daughter for her kindness by getting her a balloon, too?
Because it’s life! And life has realities. The reality is that life is not always fair.
Life does not always work out in a real-time karmic balance where you are rewarded with material goodness when you do something good. And that is OK. I want to instill generosity, kindness, and giving in my young daughter because it makes her feel good to serve others and bring them happiness. I want her to do good deeds because she feels good doing them, not because she gets something tangible out of the deal.
The reality is that life is full of disappointments.
Life does not always work out how you want it to. As much as it pains me to see my daughter disappointed (or sad, or angry, or any other negative feelings, for that matter), these life lessons are essential. I know that learning to deal with these emotions and encouraging the healthy expression of these feelings is so critical to her future growth and success. In the instance of the balloon, I let her be upset and disappointed, I let her voice how she felt, I talked with her about it, and I let her know her mommy was right by her side while she worked through this. I also let her know that even though she was having “wild feelings,” as we like to call them, it didn’t mean she was going to get her way.
Her cousin came over for dinner that night. When she walked in the door, my daughter ran over to her with the new balloon, bursting with pride. “Here you go! I got this for you!” she said so excitedly. The two of them spent the night playing with the balloon and each other. My daughter got something better than a balloon that night — she got a rich life lesson. I hope my mom did, too!