My son reminded me of that yesterday. He had a meltdown yesterday, in the car, just as we were on our way to the shops after school pick up. He had made a little booklet about the tortoise and the hare story at school and the cover of it got smudged. My son has already (oh dear!) inherited my perfectionist streak and he freaked out (I mean, really FREAKED out) about this smudge. His cover was now not how he had made it and wanted it, and he was devastated. I tried to tell him that the smudge added character and now made the tortoise cover look more authentic, like a real tortoise that was muddy, but my son was having none of that! He knew how it was "meant"to look and he was very, very upset that it was ruined.
The tears came, the shuddering, heart-wrenching cry that can get any parent into a knot. I didn't know what to do or say. I suggested a few things but everything I said was "wrong" in my poor, heartbroken son's eyes. Eventually, I just pulled him onto my lap in the car, and hugged him. I just repeated that I still thought his book was beautiful regardless, and hugged him and held him. That seemed to work. That did the trick. The tears slowly subsided and eventually stopped. And my son looked out the window and noticed that it was both raining and the sun was out, and so he then said "Maybe we will see a rainbow?" and thankfully, that was the subject changed.
But I noticed that the tears only stopped once I accepted his pain, went with him into his feelings, didn't try to change them in any way, and just accepted that he was sad about the smudged page. When I tried to tell him, in a very loving way, not to feel so sad, he wasn't hearing it. And I suppose he was right because if the same thing had happened to my artwork, I too would be just as devastated. So why was I trying to invalidate his feelings? And in the end I am glad. I learned a lesson there: sometimes, we all just need to let it out and have a good cry. And then, and only then, can we move on.
Thank you my boy.