When life hands you lemons, make lemonade. Yes, it’s a common cliché. Nevertheless, we can use this wise old saying to strengthen the gift of hope in ourselves and in our children. Simply and sweetly, it reminds us to trust in the goodness of life and make the most of what we have at hand. Not only does changing lemons into lemonade strengthen hope, making a habit out of “making lemonade” can help us stretch our imagination and develop our talent. Throughout history, many advances have come out of tough situations. Consider all the roads, bridges, parks, and schools built by the 3.5 million people who were put to work through the WPA program created by Franklin Delano Roosevelt during the Depression. Who knows what wondrous solution your child might envision or what great invention he might create, while trying to change life’s lemons into lemonade?
Don’t just recite the words of this well-known saying, do it. Make lemonade! Not only is there a delicious drink awaiting you and your child when you make lemonade, this activity shows, experientially, the truth behind the maxim. By literally squeezing lemons, adding sugar water, mixing, and tasting, you and your child can both get, in an ah-ha way, this lesson: Something in life that, at first, seems bitter can become palatable and maybe even delightful.
Introduce this concept on an uneventful, ordinary day, not at a time when your child has just been handed a so-called “lemon.” That way, when he later is confronted with an unpleasant situation, you can refer back and use your lemonade-making teaching experience as a touchstone for discussion and exploring options.
To make lemonade, follow your own favorite lemonade recipe, or try this one:
6 cups Water
1 cup Sugar
(Adjust the amounts to suit your taste. Allow your child to experiment with a little more lemon, a little more sugar, or a little more water, to see how it tastes to him. Take your time with this and make it fun.)
Roll each lemon on the counter before you cut them and juice them. It will make it easier for more juice to come out, and it’s fun to do! Carefully cut the lemons in halves or quarters. Hold one piece or wedge in your hand over a bowl, and SQUEEZE. You can use a wire strainer over the bowl to catch the seeds. Another way to do it (with clean hands, of course) is to squeeze the juice from the lemon wedge in one hand onto your other hand, as you hold that hand loosely in a fist, letting the juice run through your fist into the bowl, but catching the seeds in your fingers. Sometimes, this is hard to do, but once you get the hang of it, it can remind you and your child that with a little practice and patience, you have the ability to sort through things in life and take the good parts and leave the unhelpful parts behind. If you want to take it even further, plant the seeds to make more lemons!
Once you have about a cup of lemon juice, taste it. Yup, that’s right – taste it. See what the lemon tastes like before you transform it into lemonade. You can remind your child that the lemon’s sour taste is like the “sour” feeling we might have when we experience something upsetting. But, by making some changes here and there, we can transform what’s sour into something sweet!
Either boil the sugar in the water to dissolve it first, or take the simpler route and just combine the sugar, water, and lemon juice in a pitcher and stir it. Chill it in the refrigerator to the desired temperature. Then taste it together. You can ask your child, “How does it taste compared to the plain lemon juice? How do you feel now that your efforts have changed sour lemons into sweet, yummy lemonade?”
Later, whenever a lemon shows up in your child’s life, be sure to first allow your child to fully express any upsetting feelings before you remind him about the option of making lemonade from the sour situation.
Establish a lemonade-making tradition in your home. On at least one day each year, such as April Fools Day or any day you pick, combine fresh lemonade with a story that celebrates hope and the goodness of life. The following are a few picture books which demonstrate the gift of hope:
Maisy Makes Lemonade by Lucy Cousins
Sylvester and the Magic Pebble – William Steig
Dandelions – Eve Bunting
Too Many Murkles – Heidi Charissa Schmidt
“When I was 13, life was handing me lemons by the bushel! In junior high school, besides braces on my teeth, I needed to wear a Milwaukee brace on my back. Imagine: a fitted plastic girdle around my waist with two metal poles running up my spine and one running up along my sternum, meeting at a metal collar around my neck! Phoenix is hot enough as it is, but trying to run around and be a kid with a sticky, sweaty, plastic girdle from tailbone to bellybutton is next to unbearable! The best of my classmates kept on like nothing had changed; but some stared, and others called me names. I tried to make light of it and “make lemonade” — as my mom recommended — by appreciating that my back and my teeth were getting straightened out for the rest of my life and I was learning about true friendship. But, one weekend, I slipped into lamenting about the trials and tribulations of attending junior high as a mutant teenager. Just like my mom, my grandma Bobbie advised, ‘Remember, Rachel, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.’
‘I’ve had enough lemonade, Grandma!’ I curtly responded. ‘I’m making lemon meringue pie!’ Since then, when life brings a lemon into our family, we all aim for pie!” – Rachel, Scottsdale, AZ