Just for starters, half the graham crackers in the box were broken. (Okay, fine, it was more like a fourth, but I'm CRABBY and it FELT like half.) Several others broke while we were trying to assemble the houses. (Fine: ONE broke.) I'd spent $3 to get a box of the brand-name ones because the school sign-up sheet emphasized that it was important to use the brand-name ones.
THEN, I got a royal icing recipe online, and even went out and bought pasteurized egg whites for it ($1.89 per cup---ack), and the recipe was a TOTAL FLOP. It was the consistency of...I'm not sure what it was the consistency of, but I could pour it, and when I tried to use it as glue (oh, that's it: it was the consistency of Elmer's glue), it just ran and dripped all over the place. The parts that DID stick together kept falling apart.
I believe I've mentioned before that I've got a flash temper: I get too mad, too fast. As I've pointed out to the children in our discussions about how everyone has character flaws to work on, the upside to this particular character flaw is that I also get over it fast. (I still remember with a cringe my grandfather's temper, which was silent and simmering and wouldn't be over until he apparently reset in his sleep.) But the downside is that when things are frustrating, I don't, um, cope well. Nor is my non-coping particularly, um, silent.
So then I took a little break and, in thinking over how things had gone, realized that in addition to needing to find a workable way to do the houses since otherwise it would be too disappointing to the children, I needed to fix how things had gone with our first attempt, to avoid leaving them with the Happy Holiday Memory of "the time we were going to make gingerbread houses but then mom went into a frustrated rage and called the whole thing off like a JERK."
In years of coping with temper, I've learned it's far better when angry not to indulge in the deep satisfaction of breaking something, because the satisfaction is momentary but the clean-up is significantly more time-consuming. It's the same with the kind of damage a temper does to children: it requires clean-up, and the clean-up takes significantly longer than the event itself.
I started by going out and saying things like "Whew, that was frustrating, wasn't it?" I explained that sometimes when something is frustrating, it's better to take a little break instead of getting mad. Then I said I was sorry for getting so frustrated and mad, and I said things like, "When we're frustrated, are we supposed to say "AAAAAAA THIS ISN'T WORKING PERFECTLY THE VERY FIRST TIME, SO FORGET THE WHOLE THING!!"? and they'd say "Nooooooooooo!!" and laugh. So step one (indicating end of tantrum, apologizing for tantrum, and breaking the ice by making fun of self while simultaneously delivering lesson on correct handling of something I'd handled incorrectly) was complete.
Then I said we WOULD try again, because it would be too disappointing to just NOT DO IT, and they agreed. I said we'd have to do it another day because we were out of time for today and still needed to find a new frosting recipe, but that we WOULD do it---we would just need to find a way that would work better than the way we'd tried it the first time. They were relieved and happy and saying "Yeah! And maybe NEXT time it will work!" Step two (reassurance, plus contradiction of anything I might have said in the heat of the moment, plus delivering of "try, try again" lesson) complete.
Then I suggested we go to the kitchen and consider the results of our first efforts. We sighed and laughed over the two "successes" (extremely sloppy and dripping and tippy, but TECHNICALLY crackers glued together in a rectangle) and the one total failure, which had tipped over completely. I took a bite of one of the collapsed pieces, and it was really good, so I handed out iced graham crackers to everyone, and we stood in the kitchen eating them and commenting how yummy they were and talking more about what we might try next time. Third step (laughing at what had been frustrating, having a fun and unexpected treat, plus getting to see what the completed houses might taste like when we DID succeed) complete.
So. We are still ON for our Gingerbread! House! Adventure!, but with just a little