As the saying goes, you cannot fit a square peg into a round hole.
Granted, you and I don’t play with choo-choo train tracks on a regular basis (unless it’s with our kids), but you knew this story wasn’t really about choo-choo tracks, right?
Emmett’s behavior applies to us as adults.
To some degree, we have all tried to make something work, when it clearly wouldn’t work.
We’ve all been on both sides of the problem:
- Sometimes we insist the straight piece will fit where the curved piece belongs. I often think that my solution to a problem, even if it has been proven not to work, is still the right solution.
- Sometimes we watch our loved ones insist the straight piece will fit where the round piece goes. For example, we hear someone insist they can eat doughnuts and still lose weight.
Spiritual-religious piece of advice #1: Be aware of when you’re trying to force a straight piece into the place where a round piece belongs.
The Story Continues
Continuing on from the story above…
I was upset that I was not able to mollify my son.
Later that evening, I asked Jane (who is often more adept at parenting than I am), “What did I do wrong?”
She, a wise therapist, said, “Sometimes, people just need to cry — to mourn their losses.”
Emmett was just upset. Perhaps he just found out that the physical world has limitations.
I simply needed to let him do his thing, allow him to engage in his tantrum, and he would have eventually gotten through it on his own — which is exactly what he did.
I’m not advocating parental neglect. (It would have been wrong for me to go into the other room while Emmett cried.) Rather, I’m suggesting we as parents be present — be there with our kids as they work through their feelings.
Here’s the thing: my trying to explain to Emmett why the track pieces weren’t fitting together didn’t help anyone.
There’s a great quote from Shimon ben Elazar in a wisdom section of the Talmud called Pirkei Avot (4:23):
Do not appease your friend in his time of anger; do not comfort him while the dead is still laid out before him; do not question him in the hour of his vow; and do not strive to see him in his hour of misfortune.
We must simply allow that person to be where they are. Even if their discomfort discomforts us.
The only way to so this is for us to surrender our desire to control them and the world. (Sorry, but it’s true.)
Spiritual-religious piece of advice #2: Don’t try to talk or take someone out of his or her anguish.