It's not always about the lesson - FamilyEducation

It's not always about the lesson

July 31,2008
As (almost) always, I picked up K-Man at school and headed off to a park (with a pole). It’s (always) always amazing that he can play at school all day and then want nothing more than to keep on playing when I pick him up. After nearly an hour of sliding down poles, driving the fire truck and playing in the sand, I was ready to go. K-Man? Not so much.

K-Man was sitting in the sandbox with two small plastic rakes – one yellow and one pink (his favorite color). He was enjoying a game that he likes to call, “Make myself as sandy as possible and get sand in as many hard to reach places as possible in order to get it all over the house when I get home.” He’s quite accomplished at this game, I might add. It should come as no surprise, therefore, that when I tried to interrupt this game and move on to the “Daddy is hungry” part of the evening – chaos ensued. K-Man? Not so happy.

I had a choice to make. After letting him know that we had five more minutes, I could fight the good fight, scoop him up and head off to the car with a reasonably unhappy child (one who would prefer to stay at the park, sleep at the park and live at the park). I could make every attempt to reason with a three-year-old and explain precisely why it was time to go. Or, knowing that his current euphoria wasn’t so much about the sand as it was the pink and yellow rakes, I could pick him up and allow him to “borrow” the rakes until we went back to the park sometime in the next couple of days.

Such decisions are often mitigated by circumstance and require careful consideration that takes into account things like time of day, day of the week and the course of the day itself. Factoring in the fact that the day started early (5:30 a.m.) after limited sleep (five hours) and included a couple of fairly stressful conference calls (which, in their own right, required substantial preparation), I knew I had no choice. We opted to lift the rakes. I was spared a meltdown. K-Man was spared sadness. (And, as we walked to the car…a blog posting was born.)

Before I go any further, do know that there was that pang of guilt. I had that, “Wow, I’m really teaching my kid a horrible lesson right now.” That being said, it didn’t last terribly long.

Yes, I probably could have sat down and reasoned with, explained to and otherwise begged K-Man to put down the rakes. It was time to go. But, there are times when parenting isn’t so much about teaching as it is about survival. And, frankly, I’m not sure that I was in the right mindset to teach (much less have the patience for “the class” to grasp the lesson). I was, however, in the perfect space to wrap my entire being around survival. The rakes will be put back and (call it a justification if you must) they likely won’t be missed.

As we arrived at our next destination, I saw some friends with their daughter (who is one year younger than K-Man and basically the same size). They commented on the pink rake K-Man was carrying. I told them that borrowing the rake from the park was our “compromise” for going to dinner. (The park, by the way, is very close to their house.) “Oh, we have a whole collection of those at our house,” my friend’s wife said. “We just keep borrowing and replacing, borrowing and replacing.”

In the end, I probably do wish that I had the patience and fortitude to work with K-Man both to peacefully leave the rakes in the sandbox and leave the park. I wish that I could have used this opportunity to again reiterate the lessons of sharing, while explaining how other kids use those rakes, too, and if he takes the rakes, those kids won’t be able to play with them.

Then again, as I pack for another trip, I also know that having those last few peaceful, fun, playful hours together with K-Man was much more important than “the lesson” he might have learned. Sometimes survival trumps teaching. It can’t always be about the lesson.