One of my three year old twins spent yesterday afternoon at home whilst the other was at nursery as she was ill. We had a delightful time (after her initial horrified reaction that she was going to miss nursery!). We read books snuggled in bed and then spent an hour or so creating bean bag monsters (which she called owls) from a craft pack she'd been given for Christmas. Her delight in her owls was wholehearted - 'They're just what I wanted!' 'Small enough to fit in my hand' 'Don't they look cute Mummy!'. She spent the rest of the time playing with them before we woke up A and headed out to pick up her sister from nursery. She brought two owls with her - one to show her teacher, and another to give to her twin.
Disaster struck as we headed up the road in the car as parts began falling off them - and she couldn't find the wing or the beak or the foot that had fallen off. Despite searching for the parts when we arrived - I couldn't find them either - the things she had made were now, in her mind, ruined. And I had to drag a screaming child into nursery to pick the other up and then carry her back to the car over my shoulder with her kicking and screaming for her 'owls', but not being able to hold them or play with them when the pieces were missing.
We never found the pieces - she then ripped all the others off! But it did teach me several things....
1. That crafts with adhesive sticky backs do not stick well......I will avoid them in future!
2. More importantly, that my kids are learning that life sometimes disappoints. Things we are so proud and excited about break. That this makes us angry, sad and unhappy.
After she'd calmed down (and I'd made a bean bag owl on my sewing machine that will NOT come apart!) we had a chat about it all. She's learning that things break, that I can't always fix it, that being angry isn't a sensible response - about how to deal with those things. But it is a life lesson. Life is full of things and people that disappoint us.
When we don't get the job/career we so wanted and planned for.
When relationships don't fulfil our dreams of what they might be.
When the 'perfect children' we imagined paddy and scream and fight.
When we make a great project - toy, cake, meal and spend time and money on it and it doesn't go right.
What I shared with my little girl is that actually these things can never make us happy - the way the world is means that these things won't be enough - that stuff will break and people (including ourselves) are broken. That's not to say that we don't enjoy these wonderful gifts - people are made in God's image and are full of pictures of the love and joy he has lavished on them - God has given us great things in the world with the desire that we will enjoy them. BUT if we make these gifts the things that will make us happy - we will always be disappointed. The real treasure is God - He should be what we strive for, long after and pursue. We will still experience pain and disappointment in life, but where our hearts are - He will never disappoint.
'Jesus said, 'Coming home to God is as wonderful as finding a treasure! You might have to dig before you find it. You might have to look before you see it. You might even have to give up everything you have to get it. But being where God is - being in his kingdom - that's more important than anything else in all the world. It's worth anything you have to give up!' Jesus told them. 'Because God is the real treasure'.
- Jesus Storybook Bible - Matthew 13.