Sometimes the Joy is in the Trying
The weather forecast called for 12-18 inches of snowfall, but that didn’t keep me and my grandson from going out to play. With school cancelled, a snow day was in full swing. The snowflakes started coming down slowly and we bundled up early in the morning to begin our adventure. What to do? Not enough snow yet to shovel or sticky enough to build a snowman. But, wait, why not build an igloo? With shovels, snow block makers and markers in hand, we headed to the middle of the yard. As the morning wore on, snow began to fall faster and heavier. White crystal flakes swirled around us. What fun! We worked tirelessly to create the snow packed walls that towered above us. Taking a break from our work, we huddled together under the blue tarp we had draped across the igloo walls. Sheltered from the biting wind, my grandson sipped hot chocolate as I relished the break and a hot cup of coffee. By the time my daughter came to pick my grandson up, our igloo was in good shape. We were confident it could withstand the wind and snow of the predicted two-day storm.
True to the weatherman’s prediction, the following morning the storm raged on, cementing its icy grip on the region. This meant Snow Day #2, which was pure joy for an eight-year-old boy. Waking early, my grandson waited anxiously until it was time to go to “Mema’s,” his pet name for me. When he arrived at my lakeside home he jumped out of the car, eager to inspect the igloo for any weather-related damage. Excited to find that the igloo had survived the night intact, and with more snow on the way, he was eager to complete our project. Best of all was that temperatures had risen ever so slightly, but enough to change the fluffy perfect-for-skiing but not-so-good-for-igloo-building powder into the sticky stuff that good igloos are made of.
Our hard work throughout the day was interspersed by small breaks. We took time to slide the gentle slope from the tree line toward the frozen lake; we took a bit longer to make our way along the lane that follows the shoreline—now covered in over a foot of snow—to watch for signs of wildlife and see how the neighbors were faring. As the day progressed, so did the progress on the igloo. By mid afternoon the igloo stood taller than my grandson. We had stacked the snow blocks high enough so that we could begin the circular curve that would form the igloo’s arched ceiling. As I carefully packed the sides with extra snow for support, one side suddenly caved in. My grandson called out in disbelief. All our hard work was gone. What a waste of time! he cried. How could this happen? We would never have enough time to rebuild before nightfall.
Frustration and disappointment was evident in his eyes. Though I tried humor (Didn’t Mema look funny when the wall caved in?) and reason (But didn’t we have such fun building the igloo and drinking hot chocolate?), nothing I said lessened this 8-year-old’s disappointment. He viewed our efforts as failure and was inconsolable. I let silence sit between us, and it wasn’t long before he decided to let the igloo disappointment go, because there were other minor adventures waiting to be discovered on his horizon.
The resilience of children is truly amazing to me. They can be terribly upset and disappointed to the point of being inconsolable in one moment (as was my grandson), yet after they’ve felt the feeling they are able to let it go, regroup, and move on with optimism to the next experience. In adulthood, how often do we work to build something—a career, a project, a relationship—only to be disappointed? How hard is it for us to let go? Do we appreciate the effort we’ve put in as an achievement in and of itself? Do we learn from and focus on the benefits of the experience (the fun we had in building the igloo) or focus on the drawbacks (the wall collapsed after the fun had been had)?
Sometimes the joy is in the trying.