18 Jan On Meeting Challenges, #3: Together

In late 2015, my son became a jigsaw puzzle addict.

It started in August with a 12-piece steam engine a friend of ours had gotten him for his second birthday months before. September brought the 24-piece airplane from the thrift store and the 36-piece fire engine we carried back as souvenir from our weekend getaway to Boston. In October Audra brought home a 48-piece garbage truck and a 60-piece construction site. By Thanksgiving Roo was spending an hour at a time each day doing every puzzle we owned simultaneously, dumping their pieces into one giant, jumbled pile then sorting them out and fitting them together without any supervision or assistance from either of us.

Without any supervision or assistance. My friends, I was thrilled. Thrilled. I could fold laundry! Have an extra cup of coffee! I could stare into space for long minutes at a time attempting to recall the lyrics to the Jem and the Holograms theme song ♫”We are the Misfits! Our songs are better!”♫ while my kid sat nearby in absorbed silence, shuffling pieces around on the floor and murmuring with satisfaction every time he succeeded.

For months we spent hours this way every week: engaged, together and separately, in our quiet, private pursuits: Roo doing puzzles, me doing both the many things that needed to be done and also many, many things that didn’t. ♫”We are the Misfits!”♫ Sometimes I’d ask if he needed any help. “No thank you Mommy,” he’d say. “I just working it out myself.”

It was the hundred-piece race car that finally stumped him—a Christmas gift from his grandparents, expensive, lovingly selected, with thick, glossy, vibrant pieces.

“Mommy,” he called, opening the box for the first time at the end of December, “I think I not can do this one by myself.”

“Sure you can,” I said. I was busy, distracted, doing the dishes.

“I can do it,” he said. “But Mommy—” He came over to this sink and put a hand on my knee. “I not want to, all alone. I need you with me, Mommy. I think I need…I think I need moral support.”

Of course.

We did the puzzle together. The dishes got done the next day.

This year every one of us will face a challenge that seems insurmountable. We will feel overwhelmed and under prepared. In that moment, may we have the courage to ask for the support we need. May we have someone willing to meet us down where we are, helping us to make sense of chaos and reminding us that we know already what needs to be done next.

Already Roo is doing puzzles less and less often. 2016 has different challenges in store for him, ones we can’t even imagine yet. This year, when he needs me, I hope I always take the time to guide him. To leave the dishes where they are and help.

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