Parenting lessons from a pinball machine

2 min read

By Molly Mills

“Mom, do you ever feel like a pinball?” My eight-year-old daughter, Finley, had just come back from visiting our neighbors – a wonderful older couple that has a drum set and a pinball machine in their basement. My daughters love it over there. And I am incredibly grateful that I don’t have to have either of those in my own basement!

I asked her to elaborate. She explained:

“Even though the pinball is the main part of the game and it seems like it’s having fun, it can’t really be having fun because it just has to go from one area to another without ever being able to choose where it goes or what it does. Kind of like when friends want you to play something you really don’t want to, or your team expects you to always be the goalie, or like when no one’s paying attention to your feelings.”

Wow. I totally know how a pinball feels.

We’re always a little more dialed in to our emotions when we are in the midst of a Girls Leadership workshop. So this question didn’t surprise me too much. And having just completed the 2nd/3rd grade “Brave Goals, Balanced Friendships” workshop, we learned together that, unlike a pinball, we have choices about how we participate, how we treat our friends, and how we treat ourselves.

My favorite part of the workshop: remembering to use my True Friend voice with myself.

Her favorite part: creating her own Super Brave pose.

Fin's brave and superbrave poses

Becoming the pinball

Particularly this time of year, it’s easy to find ourselves becoming the pinball – making too many commitments, saying yes when we want to say no thank you, navigating and compromising on multi-family holiday plans, and sacrificing our own time to just get it all done. There are many opportunities to practice being brave and recognize if we have balance in our relationships.

And while we can usually stop and check in with ourselves about how we are feeling, it takes bravery to act on it. In the workshop, this is exactly what Finley and I got to practice – whether it’s recognizing true friend behavior (in our friends and ourselves), learning how to compromise, coming up with a self-care plan when we feel like a pinball, or harnessing our own ‘brave’ before doing something that scares us.

So, when I asked Fin what she wanted to do when she felt like a pinball, we had an arsenal of tools to work with. After some thought, her response: “Think about if I’m being treated like a true friend should be, maybe try my Super Brave pose, but mostly, be an upstander, not a bystander in life.”

Ding, ding, ding.

Read more from Girls Leadership:

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