Experience is not the best teacher…

6961900_origFlash back to three years ago. It was this same time of year – fall consignment sale season. I had pinned and tagged until I couldn’t see straight. Finally, the day of the sale arrived, and I decided to take the kids to see if they could find any little treasures they wanted.

What was supposed to be a fun excursion turned into a mother’s nightmare.  

Walking in to the gymnasium sized room, we were amazed at how much stuff was crammed inside. Colors everywhere. Racks of clothes; table after table piled with shoes, accessories, decorations, baby gear and more toys than they stock at Toys-R-Us. In fact, it didn’t all fit in the room. Stuff was flowing into an adjacent room that also included rows of tables covered top and bottom with books, games, videos and more.

The kids were so excited to explore they could barely contain themselves. It wasn’t long, though, until my then 8-year-old son started getting into trouble. He ran from table to table digging in to the mounds of toys, becoming more excited by the minute. He didn’t mean harm, but he was being disruptive and rude to those around him.

I corrected him again and again. I could feel my blood pressure rising. He would behave for about 30 seconds then start back again. It got to the point where he was hysterically laughing. He knew he was getting in more trouble but couldn’t manage to keep himself under control.

Then, he passed the point of no return. He saw a toy that he desperately wanted. It was a very expensive ride-on toy that was appropriate for a kid nearly half his age. There was no way he was getting it. When he realized this, he took his misbehavior to a whole new level by hitting and kicking me. Y’all, it was a scene. I was red faced and embarrassed beyond words.

You might ask, why didn’t I just grab the kids and head for the parking lot? Well, my daughter was behaving like an angel. She had found some good little bargains that she really wanted. I knew they wouldn’t be there if we had to leave and return later. I didn’t want her to be punished for her brother’s misbehavior. We did head straight to the checkout, though.

My son’s behavior didn’t improve while we waited in line. I guess he thought he could wear me down and I’d change my mind. I don’t think so! The worse he behaved, the madder I got. The madder I got, the worse he behaved. The situation didn’t get any calmer when we reached the car. Even on the ride home, he was in rare form. Then, my daughter joined in the fun. I was so frustrated I couldn’t speak.

Arriving home, I sighed in relief when the garage door opened and I saw my husband’s car in the garage. It’s times like these when I really don’t know how single mothers do it. I was near the point of implosion. I went up to our bedroom, locked the door, turned on some music and stared at the ceiling. I just had to decompress, pray and wallow a bit.

After a while, I felt my spirit stirred. It occurred to me how I had actually escalated the situation with my own behavior. He had gotten himself in a place he didn’t know how to get out of, and I didn’t give him a way out. As a kid who struggles with rejection, he was feeling rejected from my good graces and had no idea how to get back. From his perspective, what was the point of holding back? I was already furious with him. I prayed and pondered on this a while. Then, I started feeling guilty. What are you doing locked away in this room? You are a parent. Get up and go parent.

Author and speaker Karen Ehman had one of these kind of experiences with her own son. She said the best advice a friend gave her is, “When you want them the least is when they need you the most.” I wanted to hide, but my son needed me.

Feeling much more composed, I went to his room and we had a long discussion. I could tell how relieved he was that I was not mad anymore. He apologized sincerely, and we had a great heart to heart talk. I told him I loved him always no matter how he behaved. I understood the circumstances of why it was so hard for him that day. Still, there were consequences for his choices and behavior.

Dr. Howard Hendricks said, “Experience is not the best teacher; evaluated experience is.”

The experience of that afternoon had wiped me out. When I had the time to evaluate what went wrong, then I gained a valuable tool for my parenting tool belt.

The next time I found us in a situation of behavior spiraling out of control, I did a little experiment. Rather than visibly getting mad or annoyed, I smiled and mustered every ounce of will power I had to respond opposite of how my son expected. I used that old toddler trick and diverted attention to something positive. Guess what? It didn’t go any further. It doesn’t always work. Honestly, some days I just don’t have the patience. It is amazing what clarity comes when you take a break and think, though.

When I think of the Children’s Park of Georgia, I envision many different scenarios for the ways people will use it. The park will be a wonderful place to bring children and to enjoy quality family time.

The park will be a special place to honor the lives of all children.

I also think of the people who may come there when they are at their wit’s end. They will find a serene, soothing place to reflect and “evaluate the experiences” they are currently enduring. I hope they will find the park to be a place of beauty and encouragement to recharge their body, mind and spirit. Like the flight attendant telling you to put your own oxygen mask on first, sometimes people need some fresh air so they can think clearly.


Have you ever had one of those days?

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