Douglas A. Boneparth is a Westfield resident and Founder of Bone Fide Wealth, LLC, a boutique wealth management firm in New York City, and co-author of The Millennial Money Fix. Contact Douglas to learn how he’s not your parent’s financial advisor.
Heather had been planning the trip since September. For her birthday, Hazel discovered she was going to Walt Disney World for the first time. To many kids, going to Disney is a rite of passage. It’s a ticket into a world of magic, happiness and childhood splendor. As a native Floridian, I remember my parents waking my brother and I up to drive three hours to Orlando to spend a few days in the parks. Heather will never forget her plane ride down from New Jersey with her entire family for a week-long getaway.
With her new Disney princess luggage fully packed and her sprinkled doughnut Mickey ears zipped away inside, Hazel was ready to take her first real vacation while her mom and dad were ready to fill their iPhones with pictures and videos. It was 4 p.m. that Tuesday and I had just finished my last meeting for the day when my phone rang. It was the school nurse to tell me Hazel was running a temperature. I hung up, immediately called her doctor and secured a last minute appointment.
I scooped the girls from school, praying for some kind of bacterial infection that could be swiftly crushed by a dose of antibiotics. The doctor said everything was clear in her ears and chest, so I ordered some swabs and left the office knowing the fate of our trip was hanging in the balance. Heather had just walked in the door when the my phone rang. Hazel tested negative for Strep, but positive for influenza. I hung up and conveyed the bad news to Heather. Her face turned white. She was devastated.
Now, what came next was a first for us as parents. Over on the couch lay Hazel, quietly watching Spongbob while her little body was hard at work fighting the virus replicating inside her. The last thing she would want to hear is that her trip to Disney needed to be rescheduled, but what other choice did we have? We told her. Mom cried. I cried. But Hazel didn’t. She did what she always does. She rose to the occasion and told us everything was going to be okay. No lie.
Within seconds, our 4-year-old provided her mom and dad instant perspective. While Heather and I were deflated beyond belief, Hazel was able to quickly move past the immediate disappointment of postponing her Disney trip to focusing on what mattered most to her at that moment — getting her mommy and daddy to cheer up. There’s a lot we can learn from Hazel in that moment, but the biggest lesson was that disappointment is always relative.
Years ago, I received a phone call from a client. Something was wrong. My heart sank deep into my stomach as I was informed of the worst thing a client could possibly share with me. Barely able to get their words out, I learned that my client had lost their infant child. All I remember after that was offering my deepest condolences and unconditional support. I could barely comprehend what they must have been going through and, to be honest, I still have trouble with it today. I then packed my things and went home to my family. I stayed home the rest of the week.
I don’t know how one bounces back from something like that, but my client said what most people in that situation usually say, that you take it one day at a time. I suppose he’s right. What I do know is that the level of devastation they experienced at the loss of their child is a galaxy’s distance from the level of disappointment that Heather and I felt having to tell our child her trip to Disney would be delayed. There’s simply no comparing the two, but therein lies the instant perspective that’s found in the relatively of disappointment.
Disappointments are challenges overcome by our own volition, fortitude and personal decisions. They are also opportunities to set an examples for your kids and those around you. It’s a character lesson and, in this particular case, it was a lesson Hazel has taught us. She could have done what most kids would do after discovering that the thing they were looking forward to the most wasn’t going to happen as planned. Instead, she chose to put what little energy she had into making sure the people that mattered most to her were okay. It’s a lesson I won’t soon forget.
This post originally appeared in my blog.