Friday, February 04, 2011

Missing flaps

Some of my most precious memories involve reading books to my granddaughter Caroline. She learned to read at any early age, and now 7 years old, she is still in love with books and reads voraciously. But back when she was little, it greatly pleased her to sit with Grammy and share in the reading experience together. Like most children, she never got tired of reading the same books over and over. That drove me crazy, though I always obliged.

One of her favorites is pictured above - "Where's Nicky's Valentine?" It's a board book about a cat named Nicky who delivers valentines to his friends around the neighborhood. Each page shows another friend receiving the heart-shaped card, and on each page there is a flap for the child to lift to see what is behind it. "Who's there?" one page reads. Then Caroline would open the door flap to reveal an elderly woman, who takes the Valentine, smiles, and pets Nicky.

As with all children's books, time and tiny hands had taken a toll on its appearance. The pages, being board, had held up pretty well, but one of the flaps had been torn off on the page that says, "Who's hiding?" and you were supposed to open the flap to reveal two happy kids in bed clutching their Valentine. Except there was no flap. You could see where the flap was glued originally, but the flap itself was gone.

Now, as Caroline loved this book, we read it a lot. Each occasion presented us with the same scenario. I would read the book, and when I got to the page of "Who's hiding?" Caroline would emit a small gasp, look up at me with grave concern, point to the missing flap, and say, "Uh oh!" Then we would turn the page and finish the book without missing a beat.

I have often thought how wonderful it would be if we had the gift of acceptance that Caroline had with this book! Each time, she saw the problem, acknowledged the problem with an appropriate response, then she let it go and moved on. She didn't pretend that the defect was not there. She didn't throw the book across the room in disgust because the missing flap ruined her reading experience. She didn't even try to figure out a way to fix it. She just responded with "Uh oh!" and then proceeded to enjoy the rest of the story.

Dieting experts tell us, for instance, that people with an "all or nothing" attitude may start out well on diets, then the first mistake or dietary indiscretion throws them into a tizzy and they throw up their hands and figure they have blown it and might as well eat everything in sight. Or someone misses a few days of exercise, then, despite their previous commitment to better health, gives up on even trying. The same can be said for any attempt to change bad habits and build new ones. It can be true for MTs who get a bad line count for a day or even a week and fall into depression because they think they'll never be good enough. It can be true when life hands us any unexpected challenge, when we fail to live up to expectations, especially our own - whenever a rough patch appears and our instinctive response is to say, "What's the use?"

What if we used Caroline's example? What if we acknowledged our disappointment, allowed ourselves a moment of frustration or sadness, and then moved on to enjoy the rest of the book...the week...the trip...the holiday...the semester...the story - our story?

Sometimes all it takes is a toddler to teach us how to really enjoy life.


Kelly said...

Carol, this is such perfect timing. We were talking at WW last night about temporary stumbling blocks and about giving ourselves a "pass" when we hit one -- much like saying, "Oh-oh!" and then quickly moving on. This really made me smile. :-)

Rachel said...

Now if it were Charlotte you were reading that book with.......