Buttered Popcorn and Other Disasters Worth Ignoring

After day one of kindergarten Ax said he’d had “The best day ever.” After day two of kindergarten Ax said his day had been “Great!” Today, day three, I picked him up and he refused to leave the classroom until I promised he could play in the schoolyard with his friends for a while. On the drive home I asked how his day was. “Well,” he said, “not so good.”

“What happened?” I asked.

“At recess some kids were playing with really cool sand toys in the sandbox and they wouldn’t let me play with them so I went and I bounced a ball by myself on the basketball court.”

“Oh, I’m glad you found something else to do that was fun.”

“It wasn’t fun. I didn’t want to be doing that.”

“Oh,” I said, “Well it’s important not to take stuff like that personally.”

“What does that mean?”

“It means who knows what was going on with those kids and why they were being the way they were – maybe they were really into whatever they were doing or just weren’t in the mood to share. It probably had nothing to do with you if you were being nice.”

“Oh,” he said.

“Yes,” I continued, trying not to panic that on day three my child had become the pariah of kindergarten, doomed to a lifetime of repeated banishment from the world’s various sandboxes. An unhappy loner. That kid.

“Yes, we don’t take things personally and we try to focus on the positive,” I intoned, glancing at my little in the rearview, repeating Don Miguel Ruiz and every other self-help strategy I’ve ever tried… none of which seemed quite potent enough to combat Ax’s first hint of the heinous, Lord-of-the-Flies-ian capacity of children, of people, in groups, absent mindful supervision.

“What’s focusing on the positive?” he asked. He really wanted to know.

“It’s like this,” I said, “Mike and I had a date night. We went to dinner at one of our favorite restaurants. The food was tasty, the service was good, the conversation was awesome. We had a great time together and then we went on a pretty drive to the movies.

“We lined up for our treats at the theater. I ordered my favorite popcorn with no butter and then we got our treats and seats. The movie started and I tasted my popcorn and it had butter on it, which I hate. The movie had started already though so I didn’t want to go and change my popcorn and the movie was good. Mike had a great time and I liked the movie too and then we came home and you asked us how our date was. Now imagine then that I said, ‘It was awful they put butter on my popcorn,’ would that be focusing on the positive or on the one thing I didn’t like?”


“What else happened at school today? Did you read any books?”

“Yes we read this book that was really funny and then we had snack and my snack buddy’s favorite color is blue and my favorite color is blue!”

“Oh wow,” I said.

“And I am supposed to make sure everyone is in line when we line up and my snack buddy is the teacher’s assistant.”

“Oh those are important jobs.”

“Yes.” Long pause. “Mom, when we get home can I play with my fire station?”


“Yay!” Literally, the kid said yay.

It’s bedtime on day three. Tomorrow will be day four. We’ll see how it goes. One day at a time.