Poohsticks, Anyone?

Before meeting up with some friends last evening, I decided to do some reflection outdoors about some disappointing news I had received.  I made my way to the courtyard of a hotel complex near the home of said friends, which had a pleasant outdoor seating area. The center of this was a rather complex, post-modernist water feature, with little streams of water pouring down a slope from a rock-like fountain.  Shallow rivulets were carved into the pavement of the courtyard which allowed you to just put your hand in the water as it flowed by, without getting yourself particularly wet.

The evening was warm but not muggy, and within a few minutes of seating myself on a rather unusual swivel chair carved out of rock, a mother and grandmother, with four children in tow, arrived in the courtyard. The women sat down on a bench opposite with a baby girl. Their three boys then ran about and laughed, and raced sticks and leaves against each other in the fountain’s river-like layout, rather like in A.A. Milne’s classic “Winnie the Pooh”.

At first I paid no attention, since I was texting people or just watching the water flowing. Yet after a while the loud cries of delight on the part of the children, who were chasing about and coming right next to me at times, broke my reverie.  Yet after several minutes, my annoyance vanished, in a more positive reflection on the significance of what these children were doing.

Of course the reality is that disappointment is part and parcel of life, though admittedly not the best part. Summer vacation always comes to an end, after all, and one must go back to school, as I am sure the children from last evening will have to do shortly. If you are about six years old, that is a major disappointment, indeed.

When you get older, the nature of these disappointments change. Perhaps you do not get a promotion you had hoped for, or the house you put a bid on goes to someone else. It would be easy to turn in on oneself, and stay focused on that disappointment. Too many adults seem to take this path, becoming embittered and unable to move on with their lives.

As is so often the case, the adult can learn a great deal from the child in these moments. The disappointments of childhood never last long, for the simple reason that the child has too many other things to think about. How can one whinge on and on about losing the boxcar derby this afternoon, when there are going to be so many moths and fireflies to chase this evening?

We should not make light of anyone’s disappointments, including our own, for our feelings about such things are very real and very legitimate. To pretend that everything is fine when it isn’t does no one any good.  Yet no matter how great or small the disappointment, there is always something that comes next that we ought to greet with anticipation and joy.

Perhaps your stick did not float as quickly as your brother’s down the stream, and for you that is surely a great disappointment. You may feel as though you will never get over it – and you won’t, if you stay fixated on it.  But tonight you and brothers will have a hot bath, and you will put on your pajamas, and you will all bounce up and down on the hotel beds to see who can jump the highest.

Now that indeed is something to look forward to.

Winnie the Pooh, Piglet and Christopher Robin
playing Poohsticks by E.H. Shepard (1926)

5 thoughts on “Poohsticks, Anyone?

  1. i didn’t realize right away what rang so true from your reflection as I am not always particularly quick-thinking, but now I know. Our Lord says that unless we become as little children, we shall not enter the kingdom heaven. not that we become childish, but child-like, finding the joys in big or small ways just as you describe 🙂


  2. As a parent I’ve come to realize that little disappointments like not getting another turn on the slide are very important for the emotional development of a person. If one can not practice handling small disappointments, one will be unprepared for the truly major disappointments that are bound to happen to all of us at some point. So…parents should not try to shield and protect their children from disappointments. It’s important to experience them and realize that yes…there is something ahead of us that will be better like jumping on the hotel bed!


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