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Resisting the Urge to Fix a 4-Year-Old’s Grief


This morning, as his older brother was getting ready for his last day of school, a fresh wave of grief washed over the Diamond. Bottom lip protruding. Sad eyes. Real tears rolling down his cheeks.


You see, earlier this week, despite my dire warnings, he insisted on taking his beloved Lightning McQueen to a group playdate. “I’ll keep him safe in my Velcro pocket,” he said with intense earnestness. I told him I didn’t think it was a good idea, reminded him that he had lost Lightning before. “I’ll be careful, Mommy. I’ll take responsibility.”


I hate to be in the position to say I told him so, but, well … I told him so.


Natural consequences can make for tough lessons. Before we left the house that day, I had told him that there would be no new Lightning, so he had better make sure to hold on to him. This morning, watching those sad little tears that just appeared suddenly and seemingly out of nowhere, I had to hold on to my parental resolve. I had to resist the impulse to say, “Oh, sweetie, we’ll get a new one.”


That might have made us both feel better in the short term, but it would have been a lost opportunity for building his reserves of resilience for more daunting losses that likely lie ahead.


So though it would have been pretty easy to relieve his despair, I didn’t interrupt his grief. It was a cheap fix I think we’d have all come to regret.

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