Teachable moments with my kids don't come around every day. I mean, I teach them things daily. But a true teachable moment - those priceless times where the world seems to stop and I get to impart a major truth about life - happens unexpectedly, and not all that often.
I have an inkling that they don't come around all that often because I am not seizing all the opportunities. Right? My preoccupation with my agenda sometimes keeps me from having open eyes and ears to their little lives. It's sad, but true. So I understand one element in experiencing teachable moments with my kids is awareness. This awareness in my life is equivalent to having a sensitive spirit to God and how He desires to use me.
When those moments come, as one did today, I decided I need to write about them for two reasons. One, I want to always give God the glory for the successes in my parenting. I'm not any good to anyone without Him, seriously (I've tested this). And two, I'm hoping that passing on the experience will help you as a parent recognize and then seize moments with your small ones when you find yourself in similar circumstances.
So here's what happened. My daughter got to do something fun and special that my son didn't get to do. He was really, really upset. But it was a version of upset that I haven't really seen him do before. It started with a little crying, but then became an eerily quiet, blank-staring despair. He wouldn't answer my questions. He wouldn't move. For a long time. He was totally frozen in his pain.
After a while, I approached him, scooped him up, and asked him if he'd tell me how he felt. He didn't answer at all. So I gave him some examples of feelings: angry, sad, hurt, jealous. And asked him again. He mumbled, "Jealous." I said, "Anything else?" He muttered, "Broken." His answer was so raw, it made me want to have a speedy solution, an emotional band-aid to patch this whole mess up. But I knew I couldn't - and shouldn't - quickly wipe away these feelings of his like wiping up a spill with a paper towel. I recognized that he was experiencing real life, and I know there is a very important reason God allows disappointment on this earth. This was a chance to teach him about the brokenness in his world, not hide him from it.
He was sitting in my lap, his head snuggled into me, his body totally limp. Empathy came to me first, in the form of a story from my own life when I felt jealous and broken. I said I knew what that was like. Everyone does. I told him this kind of thing is called disappointment, and how life is filled with it. Then I said that the reason God allows disappointment is because he never wants us to forget that this earth is not our home. (My little guy knew where our real home was: "Heaven," he said.) I continued to say that heaven is a place where there is no broken. Everything is fixed. I said sometimes, when I feel broken, I want to be at my real home. Don't you? (He nodded.) But for now, I said, God wants us to remember how great everything will be in heaven, and that is called Hope. Hope is knowing that someday, all the broken will be gone.
He actually started crying a little once again. I took this as a good sign, that a wall had fallen. I held him, and said we could sit that way until he was finished feeling sad. In about a minute, he said, "I'm ready." And on about our day we went. Amazing. That holy window of time lasted no more than 10 minutes.
I can tell you with certainty that the above bit of inspired parenting did NOT come from me. How could it? I had a load of responsibilities, errands, and stuff to do. In fact, for the first few minutes of my son's brooding, I tried to brush over the drama with my lame, logic-based explanations as to why he didn't get to go. But when his sadness persisted, when I noticed his response was a little more serious, I started to slow down and see him. I started to tune into my own spirit, reminding me of my job. I started to participate in the situation, rather than simply trying to manage it. Our resulting talk may have been the most fruitful part of my day.
The thing about teachable moments is that they like to sneak up on you. You don't usually get to prepare for them. And that means it's best to lean heavily on God. When I see a moment is presenting itself, I stop everything. I try to see the person and his or her needs, and nothing else. I sometimes ask God for the right words on the spot. I try to listen in my spirit before speaking. And thankfully, God - the most perfect, loving, and wise parent ever - is happy to take it from there.