House of Cards

So much of parenthood is about the “teachable moment.”  My guess is you know what I mean, even if you haven’t heard the phrase before. eachable moments are those spontaneous moments in our day that demonstrate the opportunity to share life’s lessons with our children in accessible ways they will easily understand.  I think I first learned about the concept in grad school, long before kiddos, but it’s served me well in my parenting.

I had one the other day with Mary Tyler Son that was pretty profound, actually.  We were reading from Museum ABC and talking about the art on each page.  The letter “G” was for games and shared this image:

"Boy with a House of Cards" painted by Francois Hubert Drouais, from a collection in the Metropolitan Museum of Art
“Boy with a House of Cards” painted by Francois Hubert Drouais, from a collection in the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Mary Tyler Son was fascinated by what the boy was doing and full of questions.  We play a couple of easy card games, but never tried to build with them.  I promised I would teach him the next day.

So we did.

Oy.  The boy’s eyes expanded almost out of his head with appreciation for the idea of building a structure with cards, but it took all of 30 seconds for him to thrown down his own cards in disgust and frustration when his house didn’t immediately morph into a three story abode.  These were not cooperating like Legos and he was mad.

Ha!  Silly me had a whole teachable moment planned about how family members have to lean on one another in order to stand up and that we are all dependent on others we love for their support, yada yada yada. You get the drill.  Instead, I found myself working hard to prevent a total meltdown because the cards weren’t standing like the painting!  BAH! WHY IS THIS NOT WORKING, MAMA!  

So, yeah, the teachable moment became about something else entirely.

We talked about managing our frustration and how things might look easy, but they aren’t easy at all and that when something is hard the solution is not to throw your hands up in disgust and get angry and yell at your mother like she sold you a bill of rotten goods.  Nope, none of those things.

I had myself my own teachable moment over the cards and tears.  I’m not a sports gal, but get the concept and think that so much of parenting is about reading a situation and calling audibles as needed.  In that moment, my boy could care less about leaning on one another for support and the concept of interdependence.  He needed to process his frustration and calm the hell down.

When you’re a bright kid and things come easily to you, well, it’s natural to get complacent that life is that way.  It’s not.  Life can be a real jerk sometimes.  Even a five year old is not too young to understand that.  Not all things are easy.  Some things take practice.  Some things take work. Some things will never be mastered, no matter how much you might try. That kind of sucks.

Our house of cards success wasn’t triple story construction like the overachieving kid in the painting above.  Nope.  Our house of cards success was the little one, after much patience, standing two cards up and having them stay there about three seconds before they toppled over and he, in response, not toppling over as well.

It wasn’t the teachable moment I had expected, but it was a pretty good one.

House of Cards 2

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