There was a crash from BB#1’s room the other day. He had asked me to look for something on his overloaded bookshelf, and I didn’t have time. So, resourceful boy that he is, he got a stool to help himself.
He had knocked off a little decorative baby mug, which was now broken into several pieces. He gets attached to things—when we replaced our washer and dryer several years ago he was most upset that the old ones were sitting out on the curb. He wanted them back in our house. So, despite the fact he never actually drank out of the mug as a baby (because it was china), or since (because it was babyish), this was a somewhat traumatic moment. I tried not to make a bigger deal out of it—it was just a “thing”, after all. He hadn’t done it on purpose, and no one had been hurt. But I probably did say something unhelpful along the lines of “why didn’t you just wait for me to help you?”
My husband’s immediate response was that he could fix it. But I pointed out it was in three big pieces and several smaller shards; this was not simply a handle that could be glued back on. Attempts to fix it would have created Frankencup: unusable and unsightly. So then he suggested we could try to find an exact replacement. But BB#1 pointed out that even if it looked the same, it would not be the same. It would not be the memento of his babyhood that has sat on his shelf the last 8 years.
I hate for my children to be upset and disappointed too, and I know my husband was just trying to make BB#1 feel better. But sometimes, things break. And sometimes, they can’t be fixed. Maybe they can be replaced, but I’m with my son: sometimes, it’s not the same.
It’s not as though “punishment” is in order—this could have happened to anyone—but I think there is some value in a kid learning that broken things can’t always be repaired, and aren’t always automatically replaced with something new. Better that they learn to deal with feelings of loss over “things,” that really don’t matter. Because eventually, they will have to deal with those feelings over something that really does.