The card arrived in Friday’s mail amidst the sea of Christmas catalogs and bills. Abigail is thrilled to receive a letter from her grandmother and even more impressed with the five crisp dollar bills tucked inside the card.
“Oh, look, lots of money!” she exclaims. “Can I buy a balloon?”
We chat about the benefits of saving money and putting the dollars in her piggy bank.
“But mommy,” she says, “dollars don’t fit in the hole, only silver coins.”
I show her that we can fold the bills up and put them into the hole, but that launches a screaming tirade about how I am “wrinkling and ruining her money.”
Then she adds, “I am feeling ‘frus-ter-rated’ with you, mommy.”
One thing I have learned in my few short years of parenting is to pick my battles; this was one for me to relinquish and surrender.
“Fine,” I tell her, “we can get a balloon tomorrow.”
It was a simple red balloon – latex, helium, and a blue ribbon. For one dollar and some tax, my child is thrilled by her purchase. I make the mistake of pointing out that she can put the rest of her dollars and the change into her piggy bank.
“No,” she answers, “I will use it to buy more balloons later.”
We get home from the grocery store and she proudly shows her dad the balloon. She lets go of the ribbon and the balloon floats to the ceiling.
Her lip quivers and the tears flow.
“My balloon,” she cries. “My new balloon is gone.”
I feel her loss. Her sadness is infectious and raw. My heart breaks a little for her.
“I am so sorry, sweetie.”
I hold her until she calms down.
“Why mommy? Why did my balloon pop?”
I can’t think of a good answer so I just say, “Abby, balloons pop. It happens all the time.”
“Because sometimes things happen that make us feel sad,” I explain. “But we get over it and move on. And, then we are happy again.”
Paul goes to the store to pick up a few things and promises Abby a new balloon. She proudly hands him a dollar. An hour later he comes home with a pink balloon. This one (almost appropriately) sports a black ribbon. Abby screams with excitement.
“Thank you Daddy! I love it. It is my most ‘favorite-ist’ balloon ever.”
“Nooooooooooooooo,not again” she wails.
The tears flow, but this time she gets over the disappointment much quicker. In just 15 minutes her sadness gives way to whining for Christmas chocolate.
We are about to head out to pre-school when Abby brings up the balloon.
“My balloon is gone,” she says.
“I know, honey. I am very sad for you.”
“Oh mommy,” she says giving me a hug. “Don’t be sad. It’s ok, balloons pop.”
It occurs to me how wise she is in her three-years of life.
Life disappoints us.
In the end we learn that we are not just strong, but resilient -- an important lesson for a child, and an even more important reminder for the rest of us!