Someone introduced my son to lollipops. My toddler has now entered sweet-tooth territory, never to return to the land of grapes-are-a-treat. What does this mean for me? More tantrums, for starters. Only now they’ve upgraded from code orange to code red.

At 6 in the morning I enter his room, sweeping him up into my arms, expecting my usual good morning kiss. Instead he leans against me endearingly, and whispers ever so quietly, “Want lolly.”

Naftoli, good morning. Time for breakfast. Mommy has no lollies.”

“Mommy want looooooooooolly! Lolly! Lolllllly!” His pitch is increasing in crescendo, and his desperation is pitiful.

How does my emotional barometer read when my bank account is in the red, and I didn’t balance my account properly? He slams down onto the floor; maybe the floor can grow some lollies? He refuses to be pragmatic, and stubbornly repeats the chorus “la-lee. La-leeeee.”

Is he worried he will never get a lollipop? Does he feel he literally can’t breathe without one? How does it happen that if he doesn’t get what he wants, all the alarms go ringing simultaneously, causing chaos and stress levels to climb with his decibel level?!

My first reaction is: I never act like Naftoli. I act like an adult. I see how silly it is to tantrum over something trivial, and how silly it is not to accept the reality of no lollipops. I always take it in stride when things don’t go my way, and when my carefully laid plans go astray. In fact, I am so levelheaded that when I am disappointed, I say, “G‑d, You know what is best for me, and You see the big picture. You know that for whatever reason, I don’t need X, Y or Z right now.” I never cast blame, or expect those around me to produce what they cannot.

Or do I?

What about the time when I was scheduled to have my house painted in July, only to have the super shrug and say, “Me busy, Mrs., until September”? (Seems painters have a lot in common with contractors and seamstresses!) Or the time that I ordered a custom-made lemon quartz bracelet, thinking it was olive green, only to receive a sparkling lime-colored piece of jewelry? How did I react then? How does my emotional barometer read when my bank account is in the red, and I didn’t balance my account properly? Or even when there is no hot water when it’s time to bathe the children for Shabbat?

There must be some tools out there to deal with the inevitable disappointments and challenges in life. And it must be that we’re not born using them—hence the lollipop scene.

Learning a skill is a process. I remember when I went to my first art class as a kid, and I stood in awe of my teacher’s intricate and rich oil paintings. She glanced at me knowingly and said, “You gotta have miles and miles of canvas under your belt in order to paint like this.” I’m still working on my first mile.

As an adult, the profound correlation between the skill of life and the skill of painting took on new meaning, when I stumbled upon a letter written by the Lubavitcher Rebbe to artist Chanoch Lieberman:

As you are surely aware, the primary talent of an artist is his ability to step away from the externalities . . . and to expose the essence of the thing he portrays, causing the one who looks at the painting to perceive it in another, truer light . . .

And this is one of the foundations of man’s service of his Creator . . . Our mission in life—based on the simple faith that “there is none else beside Him”—is that we should approach everything in life from this perspective. That we should each strive to reveal, as much as possible, the divine essence in everything . . .

A person might experience difficulties, trials and challenges . . . But these are but the means by which to achieve the purpose of life—that his soul should elevate itself through its positive deeds in this world . . .

At first glance, a shadow appears to be something that conceals lightI was amazed to find another letter which expounded on the interplay between darks and lights in every piece of fine art, shedding light on the very shadows of life:

At first glance, a shadow appears to be something that conceals light. However, according to the teachings of Torah, everything G‑d created was for His glory. This must apply to the shadow equally as to the light. Indeed, properly executed and skillfully placed, a shadow can actually enhance and highlight the effects of the light . . . From this, we can derive an important lesson whenever we encounter dark times . . . we should use the negative in a positive way, so that every spiritual “shadow” should come to be recognized as a “setting” that connects us to our Creator.

To me, the key word was “perceive.” The degree in which my cognitive filtering system learns how to perceive events in a positive manner will be the defining factor of my mental wellbeing. That, after all, is the difference between the maturity of an adult and that of a toddler. But there need to be miles and miles of experience under the belt to think like that. I’m still working on my first mile. After all, toddlerhood is just the beginning!