To my dearest wee Little Boy:
You were laying on your play mat, deeply engrossed in doing something with a dangling starfish. I am not quite sure what it was that you were so determined to do – to be honest, I am not quite sure that you were sure what you wanted to do – but whatever it was, it was very important. I could see the concentration in your face and the effort with which you pulled the starfish into your mouth. I could hear the effort, too: you are not a quiet concentrator, and your endeavors were accompanied by many grunts and exclamations.
At some point, whatever it was you were trying to do became just too hard. It wasn’t working. Your legs started kicking furiously, your face scrunched up in frustration, and you began to sob. You just couldn’t get this starfish to do what you wanted, and that was so, so terrible.
Watching from across the room, I laughed. I laughed because I saw myself in you. Saw all the times I have wanted to pull my hair out over a code that wouldn’t compile (or worse, would compile but produced inexplicably wrong results). I saw in your frustration all the times I have cried over problems that I couldn’t solve. All the times that I’ve been angry when I have to re-knit the same rows of a sock three times to get it right.
Then I did what I usually do for myself: I removed you from the situation. You got some cuddle time with Mama. A chance to calm down and find something less infuriating to play with. All was well.
I am sorry, my child. Not for laughing – you are far too young to be offended by laughter. No, I am sorry that you inherited my reaction to difficult problems. There will be many times in your life when you won’t get it right on the first try, and I hope that you will learn to persevere rather than break out in tears. It is a lesson that I am still learning myself.