This morning, after happily playing independently for about an hour, E came up to me with The.Toy.I.Hate. Seriously, I think someone who hates parents made this flimsy piece of junk that holds so much appeal to a young boy. What is is, is part of the take-and-play Thomas the Train set. Different little scenes that all connect together, and fold up for travel. We have some older ones from yard sales, and they are terrific. But this new one, found in the clearance bin at Target, just makes my kid angry. Trains don't stay on the track. The track snaps apart often. The trains that came with it don't quite work, the bigger ones are just a little too big. When they go down the ramp, they fly off into outer space. My kid has a love/hate relationship with this toy. He WANTS IT desperately every time he sees it. And then within a few minutes is in tears because it's not working how he wants it to.
Does this look like a kid who begged for this toy?
So, today, I considered giving this toy away. Was it worth this? He has lots of toys that he can do that make him happy. I thought and thought as I watched him play. At one point, I put the toy in "toy timeout" because he threw it. This is something we do, instead of putting him in timeout for small infractions. We take away the offending toy and when he calms down, he gets it back.
Today, when he got the track set back, I watched him. Yes, he was still frustrated. But he was considering things. He was considering the speed which he pushed them. He considered if Toby was really the best choice for frontrunner, or if Percy was a little more streamlined. He tried it on the floor and tried it on the ottoman. He still had this look often:
Which to me doesn't look like much fun. But he still kept going. He threw Toby once then quickly picked him up apologetically (in my mind). After a bit, he signed "all done" and we put it away. He brought me his construction book and we looked at that til naptime.
I could give this toy to Goodwill. I could bestow its flimsy crappiness on another unsuspecting mom happy to find it for $1. It would be easy to do, and he likely wouldn't know it was missing. But I'm going to choose, at times, to let my son be frustrated. To let him try ten times to get up the climber at the playground before offering a boost. Because the eleventh time is when he did it. Proudly! To let him figure things out. To sometimes fail. We tell him all the time "Sometimes trains fall off the tracks, its okay." He is starting to get it...get that he can pick them back up and turn them around til the magnets work the right way, and keep going on about his play scheme.
In his life, long after Thomas is packed away or passed on to another family, sometimes trains in his life will come off the tracks. Sometimes situations will come along that don't work for his just-so personality. Things will frustrate him, immensely. My mommy heart wants to protect him from things that put that look on his face. But I know that I will be doing a disservice to my son. We learn through our struggles.
Doesn't God teach us through our own struggles as adults? I have learned very little during the easy, carefree, mountaintop times of my life. It's in the valleys that I grow. So sometimes, I have to let my son live in the valley. It doesn't mean I leave him, just as I know God doesn't leave me during the frustrating or hard times. I was right there with him today, encouraging him when things went well and offering support when they didn't. I helped him take a time-out to calm down, so that he can learn in life when he needs to step away from a situation and look at the bigger picture. His little life and personality are a work in progress. Shaped by God and entrusted to us as his parents.
Today, on a small scale, I watched my child grow through something that was hard for him. This will happen on a larger scale at many times in his life. I won't be always able to remove the frustrating situation. So I chose to help him grow in it.
What are some times you have seen your child grow through struggles? What are some times you have seen yourself grow through struggles?