It’s 8am. We’re getting ready for school or we’re supposed to be anyway but there’s been a catastrophe.
I go up to my sons bedroom after hearing him call for help and I see him standing with a jigsaw in his hand.
It’s his favourite jigsaw – the countries of Europe with the capital cities under every piece. He does this puzzle several times a day, he loves to quiz us on the cities and he sings along facts that he’s learned about each country as he goes.
It’s became a huge part of his routine over the last few months. When I get to his room and see him with the jigsaw I can feel the stress levels rising – in my mind I’m thinking “please don’t tell me the temperatures of these countries again. We’re trying to get ready for school”.
But then I see his lip wobbling, his fists are clenched and he’s holding back the tears. Portugal is missing!!
I can feel the meltdown coming; I try to reason with him before the hurricane can take full force.
We try some techniques to bring calm, we talk about how the missing piece must be somewhere in his room.
I tell him we’ll conduct a search for Portugal. I ask him where he last saw the Portugal piece, “well in the puzzle obviously because how can I see it when it’s lost and if I knew where it was now it wouldn’t be lost”.
The torch comes out – it’s a full blown search party.
I could’ve continued getting ready for school, told him it was just a puzzle piece that we would find later but to him it wasn’t just a missing puzzle piece – it was a piece of his world that had went missing.
Without this piece in place his whole day would be wrong, he would worry about it all day and there would be chaos because all that mattered to him in that moment was that Portugal be returned to its correct place.
I pulled out drawers, I hunted through boxes and finally I found Portugal had fallen down the back of another game.
There was no elaborate celebration, no big hug, and no expression of thanks.
He simply put Portugal back on the puzzle board and continued with the school routine. It got me thinking though, so often we make light of others puzzle pieces, we see them as unimportant, irrational and we see them as petty.
But if someone needs all their puzzle pieces in order before they can get on with a successful day wouldn’t it be nice if we were more understanding and took a few minutes to help them find them all?
I would’ve searched all day for my sons missing puzzle piece, not just to stop a meltdown but so that my son could see that I understood the importance of Portugal.