Life can be utterly disappointing sometimes. As adults, we have learned strategies to overcome disappointment. Wine-drinking, bitching to girlfriends or my favorite, physical activity (i.e. exercise!!). But, teaching our children how to overcome disappointing moments in life is a tough lesson to learn, particularly when you are just as disappointed as them. As much as we’d like to yell, scream and/or overturn tables and chairs, this behavior is inappropriate and other coping mechanisms should be used (apparently).
Recently, I was reminded that although disappointing moments in life are well, disappointing, they can also lead to incredible days filled with laughter and joy. It’s really how you frame the day and react to the moment.
My kiddos and I were recently away for Spring Break and after a week away, my kids were absolutely ready to head home. They missed their friends, their beds, their dogs and their Dad. We were all set to wake at 5 am and head to the airport when I received an email notification from Westjet saying our flights had been canceled due to “Crew Issues”. Le sigh.
I managed to get us on flights the next day and went into the bedroom to tell my kids. My son has some fairly severe anxiety issues and he handles his days best when he knows what the schedule is for the entire day. So, this change in plans was going to throw him for a HUGE loop. I crawled onto the bed where I saw his little shoulders shaking as he hid under the blankets. He knew things had changed.
I broke the news to my kids that we wouldn’t be heading home that day. My daughter, she’s pretty easy going, said “OK!”. My son…started sobbing under the blankets. As my own disappointment coursed through my body, I had to fight the urge to crawl under the blankets and join him in a sob-session. Instead, I pulled the blankets back, dried his tears and told him I understood how he was feeling. I told him I felt the same way he felt, then asked what can we do to make disppointment…well…positive?
Then I said, “Well, I guess we make this the best damn day we’ve had here, don’t we?!” (he likes when I swear a bit, I think it makes him feel more grown up).
And THAT is what we did. We made a disappointing day one of the best damn days we had on vacation. We went mini-golfing with my Dad. We went swimming with my Mom. We got ice cream and laughed and talked about the fun we were having. We went for dinner with a friend I hadn’t seen for a long time and my kids made new “best friends”.
The entire day was a reminder to me that disappointment happens. It happens all the time. All. The. Time. But, how we respond and what we do with that disappointment can pivot disappointment into memories we will have forever. Granted, as adults, mini-golf, swimming and ice cream may not alleviate all of life’s disappointments, but maybe reframing our thoughts, taking more positive steps and believing you can make things good again is a step in the right direction.
My kids certainly taught me that disappointment can lead to the best damn day ever. If I learned anything from my son from this experience it’s that disappointment can cripple you. But, with the right support and enough love and determination from the people around you, disappointment can easily be turned into understanding and joy…it’s not what he expected to be doing that day, but he was the most grateful he’d been in a long time.
That being said…if we’d been delayed another day…we would have absolutely been f**ked. Cuz…when a boy loves his dog this much…no amount of ice cream can dissolve that disappointment.