Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A tough lesson

Cady Gray loves playing on Tinkatolli, a great online world for kids that encourages offline creativity.  A few weeks ago, she decided to make a toy bed in response to a Tinkatolli challenge.  I helped her find materials and put some of the parts together (although she'd completed a lot of it before I got involved.  Then I took some pictures of it for her, and she uploaded it into her scrapbook and entered it in the Tinka Fair.

Yesterday she came to me with a plan to delete her project, use another photo, and resubmit it, because she thought that she had submitted too early to be a part of the Tinka Fair.  Then she returned excited and thrilled because she found that her project had been accepted and had garnered several votes already.  The conversation for the rest of the day was about her competition, the votes she'd gotten, and her chances of getting more.

Just a few minutes ago Cady Gray walked into the living room with the crumpled face of a seven-year-old about to burst into tears.  When I asked what was wrong, she said that she actually had deleted her project yesterday before she discovered the Tinka Fair acceptance, and that her bed and all its votes had disappeared from the Fair.  She was crushed.  The idea that site users she didn't know had looked at the picture and thought enough of it to give it a vote had been a huge revelation to her the day before.  She had been looking forward to finding out if her position had improved.  And now it was all gone, with no chance to get it back that she could see.

Anybody who's accidentally deleted work or lost something irreplaceable or missed a chance long hoped for will understand how she felt.  I haven't seen her this bereft in ages.  I told her I understood her disappointment and was sorry, but that there would be other chances.  And just now, about 10 minutes later, she came out with dry eyes to ask for a little more time on the computer, and told me she felt better.  Tinkatolli had a new challenge she'd just discovered, and she was focused on trying to accomplish it.

We've all had those days or weeks when one downer after another has us wondering if we'll ever start back up.  My kids -- and my whole family, really -- have so much going for them.  Most of our time is spent in a really happy place.  That makes me treat setbacks with anxiety and fear; is this negative incident the start of a avalanche?

The message to a kid weeping over a deleted file and a lost contest is that she has plenty of creativity left to make more things, and plenty of other contests to enter.  Archer responded to Cady Gray's distress in typical fashion -- by asking about the limits of the situation.  "Could there ever be a problem that has no solution?" he asked, after I reminded him that there's always another chance to do better.  "Yes," I said as honestly as I could, "but they're rare. Almost always we can try again and work to improve." The message to myself when things don't go my way is the same: Tomorrow is another day.

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