Teaching our kids how to handle the unexpected

How to help our kids when plans goes sideways

Last week, my kiddos and I took our Lhasa Apso puppy for a walk. Our goal was to get in a decent walk for him, come home make and eat dinner and then be off to swimming lessons.

My husband, who has injuries from falling down the stairs early in the morning on July 5 when taking the puppy out for a bathroom break, would be home alone with the puppy during swim lessons. We were doing our best to wear the pooch out before we left.

I knew rain was forecasted. I noticed half of the sky had some deep gray rain clouds. But, I checked the radar on my phone and saw there was a pretty large gap in the rain and decided we should be clear to take a walk.

As we worked our way down our street, we had a few very light sprinkles. I told the kids we would go ahead and change our route to be a bit shorter. When we were on our way back, about a half block away from being home, the rain started.

When it went sideways

It went from light sprinkles to a hard, blowing rain. The kids and I ran and screeched all the way home. The puppy joined us in the running until he couldn’t, so I then picked him up and we continued our way home.

We arrived on the front porch dripping wet. Seriously wet. All four of us (the pup included) looked like we had just been thrown into a swimming pool. My kids felt a little unsure about the whole thing, my 6-year-old son especially.

But I could only laugh. Yes, it was bad timing. I had planned our schedule so that we’d have the right amount of time to include cooking dinner, eating dinner, taking the dog out again and then getting on swim gear.

I’d also just given the puppy his first bath at our house. And the rain water was sure to make my curly hair frizz, having washed out at least some of the no-frizz products that I use. I also realized I had just made more laundry for myself as we each had to do a complete outfit change.

But still I laughed. Because of all the walks we will go on this summer with our puppy (and we are going twice a day), this is one that all of us will remember long after summer has gone and even long after the puppy has turned from a puppy into a dog.

As we stood in the entryway dripping water and drying off, I made a joke. My daughter told me that she liked that I still had a sense of humor at such a time.

Using it as a teaching moment

So we talked about how being grumpy and irritable about the situation wouldn’t change it one bit. I could laugh or I could be grumpy, but either way I’d still soaking wet, holding a soaking wet dog and giving instructions to my soaking wet children on where to put their wet clothes and what to change into before they go get soaking wet again at swim lessons. I chose to laugh.

I’m not always great at choosing laughter over irritation, but as I’ve gotten older, I have learned to laugh way more. There are so many big things in this world that deserve my worries and irritation that getting wet in a downpour on a warm summer afternoon isn’t such a big deal. It was out of sorts and unplanned, but it wasn’t the end of the world.

My husband and I often tell our kids that they get to choose their attitudes. They can’t always choose or affect their circumstances, but they can choose how they react to them. Of course it’s OK to get frustrated, upset and sad. Those are all very human and very real emotions! But we can choose how to move forward when something goes sideways.

It’s a good skill to have, because I have also learned that something is always going to go sideways. I can plan as much as I want, but life throws curve balls unexpectedly. Getting upset about something I cannot control or change does nobody any good.

These are the lessons I want to teach my kids. I want them to remember how we went for a walk, got soaking wet and screeched while running home. I want them to remember laughing in our entryway as we dried off together. Because life isn’t always so serious. Life sometimes needs to just be fun, even when it goes sideways.

Getting some perspective

We can find adventure in the everyday and in the mundane. We can find it in the mishaps. And isn’t it better to look at an adversity as an adventure rather than a huge irritation?

Because I can also tell you that in five years, we may look back and joke about this walk, but nobody will remember what I was even making for dinner that night or how frizzy my hair was when we went to swimming lessons. Those are small things that don’t matter. And if I totally lost my temper and yelled at the kids for dripping water and made a fuss over how the rain threw a wrench in my plans, we might remember that in five years. That’s the kind of memory I want to avoid making!

No matter how I reacted to the unexpected downpour, my kids were watching and learning from it. Just like every other moment with them, they learn by seeing how I handle things. I don’t want them to stress over the small stuff. I want them to laugh when they can and know what really matters — we were warm, safe and dry in no time.

I want my kids to have perspective on life that hard times happen and plans go wrong, but that doesn’t mean all is lost. It doesn’t mean we can’t make good memories or make the best of a bad situation. Those are lessons I’ve fought hard to learn myself through layers of anxiety. They are hard-won lessons that I prize. Those lessons are what God has taught me as He has helped me through one sideways plan after another.

I get all these ideas in my head and make all these plans. In the past, I have gotten upset when things didn’t go as I had planned. But God has reminded me that whether my plans work or not, He always has one.

That’s what I want my kids to learn, too. It starts in small lessons like laughing through a literal downpour and carries over into big lessons like laughing — or at least finding some silver lining — in the midst of a major life storm.

Today we get to choose how we react. We model that for our children. We are teaching them by what we say and do how to respond to the world around them. What are we showing them?

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