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Big Deal or Little Problem?

2014 March 18


I get to pick Little D up from school most days. It’s one of the very best benefits of working from home. I like to get there early. I don’t know why, I am sure there is some deep-rooted psychological explanation behind it, but I cannot stand the idea of her coming out of those gates in a sea of school children and not seeing me there, waiting for her with open arms.

But that’s not the point of this story. So I am always there a few minutes early and I am lucky enough to see the kids in the special education classes come out first. It has become one of my favorite moments of the day – the genuine joy and excitement they get from coming out to their waiting parents, the amazing dedication their teachers show to caring for them and ensuring they are perfectly comfortable in that often overwhelming flurry of running bodies. Every day, I stand back and watch and admire both the kids and the caretakers who show them so much love and in some way, it makes me feel better about the world we live in and motherhood and childhood.

The other day, one of the teachers was standing with a young boy who was looking around in a bit of a panic. His eyes searched the parking lot nervously, his hands were fidgeting with his backpack and his mouth was turned down ever so slightly in a frown that he kept trying to control, to no avail.

“What’s the matter?” the teacher asked him, concerned.

“I don’t see my dad,” he replied, the slight crack in his voice bringing his fears to life. His eyes began searching more desperately. Up and down the sidewalk, into the parking lot, behind him where the school was about to let out dozens of swarming, loud kids. His hands got a little more restless. I stood by silently and watched. I imagine that this little boy’s dad, like me, never wants to be late for pick up. He never wants his son to come out of those gates and look around and not see him waiting there for him. And I imagine it’s even more important to him than it could ever be to me.

The teacher, in a calming, warm voice, said: “Big deal or little problem?”

He thought about it for a second. His eyes focused squarely on hers. His hands relaxed motionless by his sides.

He fell quiet. Calm.

“Little problem,” he replied. “Little problem,” he repeated.

“Little problem,” she assured him.

Moments later, his face broke into a giant smile. Dad was there. Just a few minutes late. The boy ran into his father’s waiting arms, the teacher gave him the progress report for the day, and the two walked hand-in-hand to their waiting car.

Little problem.

What felt like such a big deal to this boy became a little problem once he thought about it, shifted his mindset, and put it into perspective. He just needed a little reminder that sometimes in life, things that seem like a big deal aren’t anything more than a little problem. And in that moment, he and his teacher taught me a lesson that I needed to learn about evaluating life’s little hiccups and thinking before reacting to the hurdles that may come my way.

And that, my friends, was a very big deal.

Turns out you can still learn some very important things on the schoolyard…even when it’s far behind you.

*print above via Emily McDowell

38 Responses leave one →
  1. Kaly permalink
    March 18, 2014

    Love this! Great post.

  2. March 18, 2014

    Your posts are frequently so touching and lovely. I don’t think I’ve left a comment before but want to say today how much I enjoy your writing and thoughts. Love this perspective on “problems”.

    • WWGD permalink*
      March 18, 2014

      Thank you so much for the kind words and for taking the time to comment. Means so much.

  3. Jessica permalink
    March 18, 2014

    Love this! What a beautiful reminder that may have gone over most peoples heads (as they may have only thought of how it related to this child). I love picking up my son from daycare, we are lucky enough to have a ton of family support here and they are always offering to pick him up if we ever “need”, I can’t think of anything I could ever “need” to do more than pick him up and get that bright smile, and excited tell “mama!” Thanks for the reminder to keep our perspectives in check!!!

    • WWGD permalink*
      March 18, 2014

      Totally agree! Pick up is definitely one of the highlights of my day. I have a “no phone” rule for both drop off and pick up, too. It always stays in the car. Lets me focus 100% on the task at hand and it’s always worth it.

  4. elizabeth permalink
    March 18, 2014

    Love this post. You are lucky to have caught this moment and interaction. What a great lesson we can all use and with that said, I’m stealing, “Big deal, little problem.”

    Thank you.

    • WWGD permalink*
      March 18, 2014

      Please do! It has become a new personal mantra for me as well 🙂

  5. March 18, 2014

    Love this story. Teachers often have the best words to help kids see the world. And I could use this same frame of thought as well – thanks for sharing.

    • WWGD permalink*
      March 18, 2014

      Thanks, Kerry! You are so right. Teachers. Sigh. Love them so.

  6. azadeh permalink
    March 18, 2014

    this should be a children’s book. and you should write it! love this.

    • WWGD permalink*
      March 18, 2014

      You may be onto something there, my friend… 😉

  7. Lisa permalink
    March 18, 2014

    Amazing! So so true! You just made me cry a little!

  8. Carlyn permalink
    March 18, 2014

    Love it! Beautiful post!

  9. lizz permalink
    March 18, 2014

    How touching! Great post. 🙂

  10. Karsha permalink
    March 18, 2014

    OMG. This made me day. I’m totally going to start using “Big Deal / Little Problem” from now on. (And thanks for making me feel a little less guilty at those days when Rem’s one of the last to get picked up).

  11. Lizzy permalink
    March 18, 2014

    My husband and I both read this one tonight, and felt inspired. Thank you for such poignant stories. You are such a talented writer!

  12. March 19, 2014

    Wow – I can relate to this post in so many ways. I too get there early and hate the idea of having my child being the only one whose mother is not there. To be fair I know where this comes from in me; my Mum worked when I was growing up and I have to say, she was late and I did notice! I was that kid. I’m not saying I was scarred for life or anything but I did notice and I didn’t like it. Fast forward thirty years and I am there making sure my kids don’t feel my lateness. When I was working (I have stopped now) I did on occasion do that crazy, heels-clacking-down-the-hall rush to get to various school events and not always successfully. Hard work.
    On the second point of your lovely post – the idea that there is a way to break stuff down for a child into a big or small deal is amazing. What a grounding thing to say. I am so going to use that!
    L x

  13. March 19, 2014

    At a point in my life when I find *myself* getting twisted around something that probably shouldn’t be (ok, who am I kidding, I’ve always been like this) a big deal, I’m going to use this as a mantra. I’m sure I’ll “fail” at times, and forget it, but if *I* can use it, I will hopefully teach my own Beans to use it. They copy us in everything.

    So thank you, as always, for writing what you do.

  14. Megan permalink
    March 19, 2014

    Thank you for noticing. For noticing how special those kids are. For noticing how the anxiety can build quickly and can be impossible for them to mask. For noticing the great work their teachers do to connect with them and support them as they learn to make their way in the world.

    That is a version of my family in your post, and those little conversations happen all day, everyday, in our world. Thank you for noticing how powerful those interactions can be.

  15. March 19, 2014

    I’m going to start using ‘Big deal, little problem’ in my own life. I’m sure it will add some sense to some situations. I tend to make a big deal out of nothing sometimes.

  16. jenn permalink
    March 19, 2014

    Best quote I have read in a while…will be using that in my own life as I tend to over react….
    Thanks for anther great post.

  17. Julie permalink
    March 19, 2014

    This post was exactly what I needed tonight. Thank you!!

  18. March 20, 2014

    Lovely writing as always! I’m going to share this with my husband- he’s a teacher, and frequently fills in at the special needs classroom at his elementary school as well as watching the kids when they’re out of school at the YMCA.
    I know sometimes that even I don’t realize the hard work that he puts into it, but the stories are so sweet of the things they say!
    Bid deal/Little problem is such a great perspective for us all 🙂

  19. March 20, 2014

    Oh, this is so good. I welled up with tears at the compassion, the skill and the good care. Totally incorporating “big deal or little problem” into my parenting and life. Found you through my friend Sara of

  20. March 21, 2014

    Wow! What an amazing story! This will remind me even more to try to stay in this mindset that I already do try to. But to see how a teacher taught this to a small child. What an amazing thing to teach someone. I wonder how I can sneak this into conversations with my 13yo daughter. That age is so tough, as so much seems like a big problem.

  21. March 24, 2014

    This just made my day a little happier! I’ll be passing it on!

    • WWGD permalink*
      March 24, 2014

      Thanks, Amanda! Hope you and your new little one are doing great! xx

  22. Frances permalink
    March 25, 2014

    Such a touching reflection and a wonderful reminder. Thank you for sharing this beautiful observation you were able to witness. Pinning this for when my little guy (now 10-months old) is old enough for these types of lessons.

  23. March 25, 2014

    Loved reading this, you wrote it beautifully.
    Definitely a phrase that I’m going to use – for myself & my children – thanks for sharing.

  24. Lana permalink
    March 25, 2014

    love this! I am a teacher and a parent and I am definitely going to steal this gem of a saying! And, maybe once in a while, use it with myself *ahem*


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