The most important life lesson we often never learn is how to manage our emotions when disappointment comes....
My children pack their lunches in the morning. I see this as a great exercise in personal accountability and general “learning how to care for yourself”. Plus, being able to feed yourself is a skill. This morning my daughter proceeded to pack her lunch but hit a snare when she learned that there was no peanut butter...
“Mom, there’s no peanut butter and I really wanted a peanut butter and jelly for lunch”.
Her shoulders were slumped and she looked totally defeated. Obviously this was the worst thing in the world at this moment. I wanted to feel empathy but was having a hard time since there were several other sandwich and salad options available to her.
”OK. So can you make sure you look in the entire cupboard just to make certain we are out?”. Like at this point I knew my child was terrible at searching and I didn’t want to get up from the sofa to be surprised by the fact that we did indeed have peanut butter tucked behind something else. She goes away and returns to her sulking about peanut butter.
“Ok I can buy some this afternoon. Please go make your lunch.”
This was not the pep talk she had hoped to receive because it felt like she expected me to magically make peanut butter appear, which I could not.
“Mom it’s just that I really, really want peanut butter and jelly and I really don’t want anything else.”
We’ve all been there. A moment when we really had a taste for something or really wanted something and we felt anger or resentment at the emptiness that filled us rather than the desired food or opportunity we had been excited about. I empathized but also realized that this was a solid life lesson. We need to deal with disappointment. Life is filled with disappointments. (Get ready kid)
I said this:
”Look, we are at an impasse right now with this and we can’t be. I need you to get ready for school and you really don’t want to stop mourning peanut butter. I get it. This is really disappointing and it’s not what you’d expected. This is life. This is your life lesson for the day...”
I like to make physical contact in moments like this so I grabbed her hand and continued.
”Life is all about what choice you’re going to make when you face disappointment. Imagine I just left my teaching job, had a business that was failing, and I’d left your dad. I was in graduate school with no job and I had three kids. I was NOT going to move back in with your father and admit to failure. We needed money so you know what I did? I sent out 200 applications for jobs. You know how many I heard from?”
At this point I’m sure she was wondering how all this applies to her.
”I heard from one. And that’s the job I still have to this day. My joblessness was my peanut butter moment. I was so sad about being broke and our money running out, but instead of sitting around and thinking about that, I made a choice. I wanted to get creative. I wanted to find a solution. And I put in a lot of hard work to figure it out. But eventually it was solved. Our lives would be very different had I not made a choice in my peanut butter moment. We’d have a very different life. So what are you going to do in your peanut butter moment? Are you going to sit by and meditate on the fact that life sucks right now? Or are you going to come up with a creative solution that’s not ideal but completely viable?”
She gave me a long hug and then left to finish packing her lunch.
All of us have peanut butter moments- a moment when things aren’t going our way, it totally sucks and we don’t see the solution we want. In this moment we need to be patient, creative, and grateful. Be patient- take a second to calm down from the disappointment. Be creative- analyze your other options and come up with a new, completely viable solution. Be grateful- think about all that you do have and the privilege you have in the moment to seek new options.
I'm a former teacher and former college athlete, currently working to make life more equitable for all people. My mission is to get parents to partner with their child's teacher.