Life Happens: Making “Teachable Moment” Lemonade

Life happens. When it does, our reaction as parents is critical to the little ones who watch us and learn by example. How will YOU react to life's next teachable moment?

This is not the post I’d originally scheduled for today. But life happens. HOW we react when life happens is critical, especially as parents. Our little ones are always watching us, learning by example. When you encounter your next “teachable moment,” how will you react?

The former classroom teacher in me is always on the lookout for “teachable moment” opportunities. Something comes up – usually unplanned, often uncomfortable. What do you do?

The Faux Teachable Moment

Last Friday was supposed to be the girls’ end-of-year school carnival in the field beside the school. For the first time (now that Essie is tall enough to take full advantage of them), I’d pre-ordered wristbands for the girls, giving them unlimited access to the carnival rides. They could. not. WAIT.

Only it rained for most of the week. Meaning the outdoor portion of the carnival – including virtually all the rides – was cancelled. And what was left got crammed into the school’s gymnasium/cafeteria.

So instead of unlimited access to a pile of carnival rides, the girls got a finite quantity of tickets that they could use on the one remaining outdoor ride, or the indoor bounce house and obstacle course. (Or food, or school-run carnival games.)

When I broke the news to Kimmie on Friday morning, she was NOT impressed.

To be fair, she’s not a morning person anyway, so it doesn’t take much to put her in a bad mood. And in retrospect, I know I could have spent more time comforting her before launching into the difference between “glass half full” and “glass half empty” thinking. She was definitely not up for a pep talk/lecture on facing life’s challenges optimistically, versus with pessimism.

So she got onto the bus, and I prepared for my typical Friday of back-to-back volunteering commitments.

Things get messy

Soon I kissed my hubby (who, thank God, finished his spring teaching duties earlier this month!) goodbye, and went off to my first meeting. I’d no sooner settled in when he phoned me, panic in his usually-calm voice. “I need you to come home now!” he said.

Those of you who follow my Instagram account may recall our basement crisis three weeks ago. One of our dehumidifiers dumped water on our basement floor. This created a lot of wet carpet that my dear hubby needed to rip up right away, while I was away for the weekend.

Well, last Friday morning, soon after I’d left for the day, my hubby went downstairs for something. While there, he heard a strange dripping noise, across the basement from our recently de-carpeted and dried-out area.

When he went to the “consignment corner” (which is where I store and prep things for the seasonal children’s resale events in which I participate), he discovered that the ceiling and the wall were both bulging. Thanks to a leaky pipe on the first floor, they were full of water.

He was able to get the most critical things out of the way before the ceiling came down. I spent the rest of the school day moving things out of yet another part of our basement. Dear hubby spent it removing collapsed ceiling, soggy carpet, and dirty water.

Glass half-full

It could have been so much worse. Yes, we now have to replace a chunk of ceiling and half the interior walls of our basement this summer, along with the carpet. Yes, that sucks, and will be expensive.

But we still have a home, and everyone is still alive. Moreover, it’s not like I’m on crutches or anything, so I COULD help move things to dry ground.  And we didn’t lose anything priceless or irreplaceable. Plus, most of what we had to move was already in large plastic storage boxes. And (unlike the dehumidifier fiasco) homeowner’s insurance will help pay for fixing this mess.

Not that these truths made it any easier to “let go” of the chaos at home when I met the girls after school for the indoor carnival – while my dear husband stayed home to rip up more carpet, and the plumber isolated the leak and emergency-repaired the immediate problem.

In the end, it worked out even better for Kimmie that she had a stash of tickets instead of just a ride wristband. She was able to play more of the school games, and win more prize tokens, which she then traded in for several large pieces of candy (LPCs).

Kimmie’s loot

One of the games was a series of puzzles that she only half-solved on her first attempt, before her time expired. I convinced her to have another go at the puzzles and see if she could make it all the way through the second time around. On the second try, she made it to the end – and won a jackpot of bracelets, stickers, temporary tattoos, and lollipops.

Needless to say, she was thrilled. And she even shared her leftover tokens with Essie, meaning Essie could also score multiple LPCs.

Pa, Ma, and the Prairie

As soon as we got home from the carnival, it was bedtime for the girls. On the nights I put them to bed, we’ve been reading through a chapter or two every night of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books. On Friday we read the final two chapters in Little House on the Prairie, the second book in the series.

In Chapter 25, Laura’s parents learn they must leave their new homestead in Indian Territory, or government soldiers will force them to. In Chapter 26, as Ma laments kissing a year’s hard work on their new homestead goodbye, Pa points out that it’s only a year. And they have plenty of time to start over somewhere else.

This is not the first time I’ve paused in the middle of a Little House chapter to pounce on a “teachable moment.” I was right there with Ma’s sadness at the time and effort they’d invested for nought. Yet there was Pa, being all “glass half full” about the whole thing. Time to explain to Essie what those phrases meant.

But then I stopped, and asked Kimmie if she could explain what “glass half full” and “glass half empty” meant.

To my surprise, she instructed Essie on the difference between focusing on negatives vs. hunting for positives in life’s ups and downs. And she did so just as calmly and confidently as if she’d been practicing a glass-half-full lifestyle for years.

And here I’d thought she had been too upset to listen, let alone hear me, that morning.

Teachable moment

Yes, she had been listening. (Even if it wasn’t what she had wanted to hear.)

Just as she’d been listening when I suggested she give the puzzle game another try. This, rather than walk away to do something else; perseverance has not always been Kimmie’s strong suit.

Just as she’d listened to my suggestion that she share her extra prize tokens with her sister, even though her first inclination was to balk at this idea.

Just as they were both listening when we told them about the basement. Not just the fact that it had flooded, but also

  • Our gratitude that it hadn’t been worse, and that we’d discovered it so quickly.
  • Also, that we’d had the luxury of setting aside our other commitments for the day to deal with the mess.
  • That we had homeowner’s insurance, and that the plumber had so quickly found and short-term fixed the problem.
  • And especially that this had happened BEFORE we’d replaced the carpet damaged by the previous crisis!

“Teachable moment” lemonade: Making the best of things when life gives you lemons

As I tucked her in, I praised Kimmie for her three major personal victories that day:

  1. her persistence and hard work at the game, and the major payoff in the end;
  2. her kind generosity in sharing her tokens with her sister, and how happy this had made them both; and
  3. her teaching the half-full/half-empty binary to her sister, showing that she HAD been listening that morning, even though she hadn’t wanted to.

I am also grateful that my husband and I are so blessed. Especially, with the resources and resilience to turn this unexpected mishap in our basement into a major “teachable moment.” May our girls learn from this crisis how to handle life’s unexpected challenges with calm, grace, and gratitude.

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9 thoughts on “Life Happens: Making “Teachable Moment” Lemonade”

  1. Pingback: DIY Painting Tips To Save Time And Money - Super Mom Hacks

    1. So true. I, for one, am already getting SO excited at all our pending new flooring, though, and think the girls are getting the same! 🙂

    1. Haha – yeah, having to live in a destroyed house is one thing when it’s just you, but throwing kids into the mix adds a whole new dimension or three – definitely have to keep the “oh my God will life ever be normal again?” at bay when they’re around! Though the worst of it IS behind us now, and I’m starting to get excited at all the transformations that are starting to take place and/or pending! 🙂

    1. Ugh, then you’ve seen the whole ugly mess! I think we’re definitely past the worst of it, thank goodness! – and only three more strips of carpet to rip up (yay!)…

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