I believe it’s important to allow children to experience the
consequences of their choices.
At least, that’s what I told myself, to mitigate my guilt.
Let me back up. Last
Friday, while my girls were still on spring break, I took five-year-old Little
Bit to work with me for the morning. This
is always an iffy proposition, because playing by herself is not usually Little
Bit’s favorite thing. She prefers to
spend her time asking her scientifically impaired mother questions she can’t
(Side note: thanks to WolfmanGage’s cogent explanation, I
was able to answer her question about sound in space. Thanks, Wolfie.)
But that day she filled her backpack up with Kelly dolls and
accessories and played with them happily for about 2.5 hours while I toiled
away at my grant proposals. As if that
weren’t enough, she behaved beautifully through a thoroughly boring errand to
the brokerage. No whining, no fussing,
no yanking on my hand or “let’s GO Mommy.”
So, when she asked to be taken to a restaurant for lunch
instead of going home, I figured she’d earned it.
We had a lovely meal at Billy McHale’s, and on our way out,
Little Bit was given a balloon. And what
a balloon it was! Purple, bigger than
her head, on a long green ribbon. Truly
an excellent balloon.
“Let me tie it to your wrist before we go outside, Little
“No, I don’t want it tied to my wrist.”
“Ok, well, I’ll hold it while we’re outside.”
“NO Mommy, I can hold it.”
Well, Little Bit successfully made it to the car with the
ribbon still in her fist. During the 15
minute drive home, she told me she was going to stay outside and “fly my
balloon” when we got there.
“I don’t think that’s a good idea. If it gets away from you, it will be gone
forever, and we are NOT going back for another one.”
“I know I know.” But
she didn’t really know.
I’m sure you all can guess what happened. Little Bit took her balloon out of the car,
watched it wave and dance, and then the wind, which cares nothing for the
feelings of little girls, ripped it out of her hand.
I can still hear her howl of anguish.
My child came in the house weeping. I told her she’d been warned.
“But I didn’t KNOW,” she cried. And of course, she didn’t. She’d held tightly onto that ribbon, but she
did not recognize the power of the wind.
It took every ounce of my strength to refrain from getting
back in the car and going back to the restaurant to get my baby another big,
Little Bit sobbed in my arms. “It was the best balloon in the world!”
“I know, sweetie.”
And the gut kicker, “This is the WORST DAY OF MY LIFE!”
“There will be other balloons,” I lamely reassured her.
Why? WHY didn’t I
insist on tying it to her wrist? I had
failed her. I was responsible for her
After 15 minutes or so, she was over it. But me, I’m still shaken.