Disappointment and The Lego Movie: When Everything Is Not Awesome

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Emmett Brickowski, the eternally optimistic main character from The Lego Movie and The Lego Movie 2, embraces his favorite song “Everything Is Awesome” as his life’s motto. In the second movie, Emmett’s home is destroyed by the Duplo invasion and renamed Apocalypseburg. What a bummer! But he still greets the day with his favorite coffee and shouts “Good Morning, Apocalypseburg!”

I must be the Emmett of my family, because I want awesomeness to surround my kids all the time. So what about when kids experience disappointment in real life? What about disappointments like being cut from the team, not receiving the award, losing the game in overtime or being left off the birthday party invitation list? In The Lego Movie 2, Emmett tells his friend Wyldstyle, “I just thought we could rebuild the future and make everything awesome again.” She responds, “Emmett, you gotta stop pretending everything is awesome. It isn’t.” What should you do when your child is facing his own Apocalypseburg of disappointment?

If you’re a parent who has experienced stinging disappointments as a child yourself, it’s natural to wish away hurt and sadness from your own children. To want to keep them in a happy bubble where life is sunshine-y, like Emmett Brickowski. I’ve struggled with these feelings especially parenting my oldest, a sensitive 1st grader. I wanted his life to be the theme song from the Lego Movie: “Everything Is AWESOME!!!”. When he was little, this was easier to accomplish; I tried to make sure my son was always cheerful and happy. However, as he become more independent, I realized that I was doing more harm than good by continuing the charade that my son won’t encounter obstacles. Does this mean that I like watching him strike out at bat or miss the talent show because of the flu? Definitely not. I’m not even saying I don’t feel guilty when we don’t make it to see Missing Link in the theater and then my kids have to wait 3 months until it’s at RedBox. It’s normal and even healthy for kids (and parents) to learn about disappointment and how to cope with it. Have conversations with them about disappointment, engage with them and problem-solve together. Empathize and encourage, but don’t sugarcoat.

Spoiler alert: In The Lego Movie 2, Emmett’s friends are whisked away to another galaxy and he’s tasked with saving them. Along the way, Emmett begins wondering if he needs to toughen up, but Wyldstyle encourages him to keep his optimism. The Duplos and Legos combine their bricks in harmony and realize that everything’s not awesome, but it’s OK. I believe this is a motto all families can embrace!

Everything’s not awesome
Things can’t be awesome all of the time
It’s an unrealistic expectation
But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try

(The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part soundtrack)