The other morning I was dropping Ben off in the before care program at school, as I do every day.
The cafeteria was already filled with about fifty children, all sitting at their grade levels tables. The kids were busily occupying themselves with educational toys and games while they waited for the breakfast line to open.
Ben knows the routine well.
He headed over to the rolling carts to select his favorite option- the tub of Legos.
I hurried to the parent table to sign his name in the drop off binder. I was flipping through the pages to find his name when I heard---
The animated chatter in the cafeteria momentarily stopped.
I glanced over to see Legos scattered all over the floor. The tub must have slipped from his hand as he removed it from the cart.
My first impulse was to rush over, to help him clean the mess. But a little voice inside of me said, “Wait.”
The magnitude of what happened next probably went unnoticed by everyone in that room except me.
What happened next was huge because….something new occurred.
There was no crying, no wailing, nor despair.
There were no frantic calls for help.
This thing that happened- these blocks falling to the floor- this event that would have become a 911 emergency problem in the past- did not faze Ben for a moment.
He immediately began retrieving the fallen Legos and scooping them into the bucket. He worked quickly and efficiently, without a word to anyone.
I heard what I thought was a snicker and I swung my head around to the table of nearby fifth grade boys. I fixed my meanest teacher glare on them and dared them to make another sound. They wisely didn’t.
A moment later Ben had the toys in the box again and headed for his table. He sat down and began quietly building his morning’s creation. A moment later his buddy can running into the room and plopped down next to him. They began chatting about what they were going to design and how tall they thought they could get the structure.
We talk all the time about the need to develop flexibility and resiliency and independence in our children.
These goals that we work so hard to attain don’t suddenly arrive within our children one day in the distant future.
They are built in small, almost imperceptible steps, over time.
Moments like this are opportunities to learn these lessons if we give them space to work it through.
And as I walked down the sidewalk to my car that morning, I couldn’t help but look back through the window one last time.
Ben glanced up briefly from his work and waved a quick but cheerful goodbye.