friends · slice of life

Flexibility & Four Year-Olds

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Last week, I taught Isabelle what the word flexible meant since my husband had to work late.  She didn’t like the idea of showering before dinner, rather than after. I told her she needed to be flexible when daddy had to work late.

Today was another one of those days I had to ask Isabelle to be flexible.  She was all set for a play date with her new friend Abigail. We baked gf brownies yesterday and she was excited to bring them over to Abigail’s house for a play date snack.  And I was looking forward to the play date too since Abigail’s family just moved to our area from New York. After yesterday’s snow day, I was looking forward to some adult conversation.

My phone pinged during breakfast, but I ignored it. Afterward I found out, via Facebook Messenger, Abigail woke up with a stomach bug.  She wasn’t going to school. In addition, her mom needed to reschedule the playdate.  Isabelle was disappointed.

“Wha we gonna do today?” Isabelle asked.

I had no clue.  There was only a half-day of school due to a faculty in-service. In addition, school was already delayed an hour because of yesterday’s snow.  That barely left me with enough time to think of possibilities.  After all, I was supposed to use the little time I was given this morning for some revision work.

“You and mommy will do something fun.”

“What?” she inquired.

“Let me think about it.  Maybe we’ll go to Midtown Scholar or to Sky Zone.”

I felt guilty.  But then, on my way upstairs to brush my teeth before I took Isabelle to school, I was checking Facebook and saw this on a friend’s wall:

Our children should know how to deal with difficulty. It is okay for them to feel chilly, hungry, or bored. We don’t have to race to satisfy their every request. Many of our efforts to protect our children from discomfort simply weaken them and do not prepare them to deal with greater discomforts in the future. (SOURCE: Unknown)

Reading that reminded me I am not a cruise director.  Isabelle would be fine if she didn’t have another play date today.  In fact, if our afternoon consisted of the two of us coming home and making a fort by the fireplace, like we did yesterday, then it would be fine.  It would be okay for Isabelle to live with the disappointment of a canceled playdate.  I didn’t have to swoop in and come up with big, new plans.  Life would go on.

By the time I arrived at school, I found Jess, another parent, was also dealing with a change of plans.  She and her son Kai had tickets to see “Schoolhouse Rock” in Lancaster. Most Lancaster schools were closed today due to the snow so the theater canceled the show since most of the ticket holders were school groups. Jess, too, was left without plans. So, we decided to do something together. After going through a bunch of options, we settled on lunch at Starbucks, followed by a walk through Plow & Hearth (which happens to be one of Isabelle’s favorite stores).  Nothing big, fancy, or far away.  Just two preschool kids having a meal together with their moms.

Running in front of StarbucksIsabelle and Kai ran around for a few minutes and then played nicely inside of Plow & Hearth.  By the time 1:30 p.m. rolled around, the two of them were ready to go home for rest time. (Fortunately, Isabelle is even napping today!)

I hope Isabelle learned a few things today:

  • People get sick and plans change.  We have to be adapt to what life hands us.
  • When one door closes, another door opens.  (Trite, but true.)
  • You can make your own fun anywhere. (Just look at the photo below.)
Isabelle and Kai found some Adirondack chair mats on which they decided to repose.
Isabelle and Kai found some Adirondack chair mats on which they decided to repose.


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27 thoughts on “Flexibility & Four Year-Olds

  1. Stacey, you are so wise. It’s ok for children to have disappointments. Don’t you think that if we learn to handle the smaller disappointments in life, we will do better dealing with the more difficult ones?

  2. I love how you said, “I’m not a cruise director.” I was just talking about this with some other moms how sometimes we catch ourselves bending over backward, doing crazy things to make our kids happy, to make every moment perfect and magical, and in those moments think, “What am I doing? This is nuts!”

  3. You know that it is not just the children but also some adults who still need to learn the lesson of being flexible when things don’t go according to plans. I like how deeply you go with reflecting on the situation posed by one day.

  4. I love your notion that parents don’t need to be cruise directors. That is so perfect! Flexibility is a learned behavior and it looks like your daughter is on her way to learning this important lesson!


  5. I recall this quote attributed to news reporter, Lester Holt’s dad some years back during my NYC years. He said, ‘Give your kids all of what they need, some of what they want, and the desire to strive for the rest.’ Stacey, your post brings this to mind. You are sharing some important insights here. Even allowing kids to feel bored is important. How else do they learn to work through such feelings? Why do parents feel they need to rescue kids from feelings? A thought provoking post indeed.

  6. A great reminder for us all. It is in the little disappointments that we learn that we can get over things. I also think it is good for kids to be bored and make their own fun sometimes. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Such important lessons for little ones to learn! (And adults too!) I do find myself in “cruise director” mode more often than I’d like. Thank you for this slice and the new insight.

  8. Yes! Flexibility, and resiliency! I have a nephew, now 17, whose mother couldn’t handle the excitement he’d feel about exciting things or the disappointment he felt if something went wrong. It made her anxious. When he was a child (actually they still do this often) they simply surprised him & his sister with everything. Every vacation was a surprise (they wouldn’t know they were going until they got to the airport), their birthdays were a surprise, Christmas, etc. On those mornings, they’d have their normal morning routine, then sometime later, my sis-in-law would say, “Oh, go look in the living room.” and BOOM! It’s your birthday! I always thought they should be doing what you did: teach them to go with the flow of life.

  9. Some of my most fond memories of my kids growing up were times of unstructured fun. Knowing how to have an expanse of time to use creatively and wisely is a gift we can give to our children. Isabelle is learning that thanks to the wisdom of her mother.

  10. I think this is a LIFE lesson — for us all! But, yes, flexibility needs to be learned early on. I don’t think that is a word I have used with my two, but it will soon be introduced and explained! Thanks for your thoughts on flexibility and not always feeling that we have to have an answer or solve the problem — right away!

  11. I live by firm yet flexible rules. I couldn’t survive any other way. However, what really stuck out to me was the line “I am not a cruise director.” I have been allowing myself to feel guilty because of our circumstances not making life what I want for my children and me, but no more. It will all work out. Thank you for writing this today. I needed to hear it.

  12. As others have said, it is a life long learning lesson for ALL of us, learning to deal with disappointment! This narrative walks us through part of that process, what is taught and learned as a child.

  13. I love this post and that quote is amazing! I think I’ll copy it and share it with my first grade parents. The last thing we want to do is “weaken” children. Teaching children to be flexible is a great life lesson. I’m teaching my first graders to be patient. In their excitement it’s hard for them to wait…for the assembly, the celebration, the party, the mystery reader, etc. and I remind them they have to be patient.

  14. Three good lessons today. I think it is wise for children to learn discomfort and dissatisfaction. So many children, and yes even adult, cannot deal with this. Great words to live and learn by.

  15. Sounds like Isabelle is learning some lessons that will serve her well for many years! She sounds like she handled the disappointment just fine!

  16. Great lesson for her – and also for you. 🙂 I’m not a parent, but I see many of my high school students having trouble dealing with disappointment- or even the possibility of disappointment. Your daughter will be a stronger person if she learns to be flexible now.

  17. You validated a lot of parents thoughts with this today. Last summer I was in a session with Laura Robb. She said one day she complained she was bored. Her mother told her to hit her head against the wall. Shen never said I’m bored again. 🙂

  18. Bravo for you, Mom. Flexibility is tough for a four-year-old. But, look at the wonderful lesson she learned! I love the way you really wrote about an excerpt from your life yesterday. I need to try this.

  19. Stacey, I really enjoyed reading your post. There’s so much honesty in it, and truth as well. My only child is now a freshman in college, and I sometimes wish I had let him deal with disappointment a little more (instead of “rescuing” him). It is such hard work to be a parent– you always question every decision you make and worry constantly that you may be doing the wrong thing. In this, I think you were wise.

    As an aside, I loved the line, “I am not a cruise director” – It made me laugh!

    I enjoyed reading your description of this experience!

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