Coping with disappointment: The eye-opening lesson my daughter and I *both* learned

Life happens. From relationships to prized possessions, things get broken, whether by accident or intention. What matters is what we do when brokenness occurs.

Coping with disappointment: The eye-opening lesson my daughter and I *both* learned

I wasn't looking forward to my daughter discovering the handle on her favorite Frozen mug was broken and fragmented into four separate pieces. The damage had occurred accidentally, of course, when our roommate was washing dishes in the sink. He alerted me to the casualty and my first instinct was to find a replacement mug to switch with the broken one before she finds out.

When you're only 3 years old, you don't have enough life experience to temper that kind of disappointment. Many of her possessions could be lost or broken without her noticing or caring much, but there are those treasured few she is particularly attached to and requests constantly. The white mug sporting pink and purple snowflakes and portraits of Elsa and Anna's smiling faces is one of them.

When a quick Amazon search yielded no results and my busy schedule prevented a visit to the specialty Christmas and Disney store where I had purchased the original mug, the matter slipped temporarily from my mind.

Until it was too late.

Several nights later, we were preparing hot cocoa and popcorn to accompany our frequent ritual of reading books to her stuffed animals—a black cat that's actually a puppet, a floppy purple bunny, a cinnamon roll, and a giant life-like tiger named Hobbes. Before I could intervene, she requested her Frozen mug and my heart broke when I realized I had not accomplished the crafty switch I had not-so-strategically planned.

Her disappointment, as expected, was swift and sincere.

Always the curious soul, she repeatedly asked how it happened and why it happened and confirmed it was an accident. I assured her we would try to find a new one in the next few weeks and that seemed to quell her sorrow a bit. But she didn't seem genuinely cheered up.

Then it hit me. Why not fix it?

There are a couple of reasons why this solution originally didn't cross my mind. First, I do not consider myself a handy person…at all. The inventory of tools I can sufficiently wield is a hammer, screwdriver, duct tape and a paintbrush. Second, I suffer from the perhaps somewhat natural impulse to provide my daughter with the best. I don't want her having to use a broken mug. But is that truly for her sake or mine?

So I pitched the idea to my daughter, hopeful we had superglue somewhere. Her face lit up and the excitement was palpable. Of course, we should fix it, her reaction seemed to say. We can fix anything.

Several minutes later, the job was done. While the big pieces had been recovered, a few smaller chips had not, so the cracks were still visible. That didn't matter to her, she was ecstatic to have such a treasured possession repaired.

Watching my toddler's reaction, it hit me how lucky I was that Amazon didn't carry an identical product. If they had, I would have opted for that easy, uncomplicated option to avoid her justifiably negative reaction. I would have trashed the original mug in exchange for a new one.

Instead, we fixed it.

That meant she had to experience her disappointment first, but my job as a mom isn't to shield my daughter from every negative emotion and experience. Instead, I get to teach her how to handle them, helping along the way.

Because life happens. From relationships to prized possessions, things get broken, whether by accident or intention.

What matters is what we do when brokenness occurs.

My daughter's Frozen mug is no less special to her now than it was before, even if the handle was pieced back together with glue. If anything, the item is all the more precious because it was damaged, and now it is not. She got to experience the joy of putting something special back together, making it whole again.

In a throwaway society, where many possessions and even relationships can seem expendable, how rewarding it is to have a little person demonstrate the value of persistent attachment. Today it's a mug, but several years down the road it may be a friendship or something even larger. When this happens, I hope she remembers she can cope with the inevitable sorrow—and that there's usually a way to fix what was broken.

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