There are times in life that we say things or do things that we regret; we wish we would have done differently; we see it in a new perspective after the occurrence has passed.

Once you become a parent or a caregiver of a child on a regular basis, those occurrences happen much more frequently & impact you on a much greater level than ever before.

Yesterday was yet another such occurrence between me & my preschool-aged son. I realize that as my child advances to the next level in his development that I am once again pitted against the “unknown” & will continually be learning about who he is & how he functions. But still, there are some things you think I should know by now, skills you think I should have acquired, an example you think I should be setting as a parent who is also a follower of Christ.

OK – maybe it’s just ME who thinks all these things! Regardless, I am once again dismayed at how selfish I can become.

It is not every day that I get the opportunity to spend time with a friend while doing something I really enjoy – shopping! Yesterday the boys & I met up with a friend & her 2 children at one of my all-time favorite places to shop – IKEA. The morning started off really well – we were out the door on time, I had remembered my list of things I wanted to look for, traffic was great & best of all the weather was absolutely brilliant. By far the most beautiful day of the new year.

If you’ve ever shopped at an IKEA then you know that they have a huge play area for children once you enter. I have never once considered sending my child in there for all kinds of reasons but suffice it say, it most undoubtedly would have made my shopping experience soooo much better had I simply deposited my preschooler at the childcare area before I even started to shop.

The entire morning for us looked like this: Bubbs jumping onto couches, beds, furniture (all with muddy shoes), touching anything & everything on display (& remember, IKEA has EVERYTHING on display), twisting, pulling, punching all items that look different & funky (which is just about EVERYTHING). All the while I’m CONSTANTLY yelling, pulling, begging, pleading, reminding him over & over that he is stay by the cart or he’ll have to get INto the cart. Constant. By the time we are checking out I am completely frazzled, ticked off, yelling into my phone to Hubbs that I’m NEVER bringing Bubbs there again & SMASH, a jar of Lingonberry jam goes crashing to the floor – the same jar I had just bought & asked Bubbs to help put back into our cart.

Bubbs starts to cry because a) he’s had no food the entire 2 hours we’ve been wandering all over the massive store, b) he loves jam & c) he looked as though he could have fallen asleep right then & there.

*sigh*

I pick him up & hold him all the way out to the car, with Wee Bubbs in the cart, happy as a clam since he had slept practically the entire time in the baby carrier on my back. I whispered to Bubbs that we would get another jar of jam & be on our way upstairs to eat in the food court very soon.

Once we got home, I spent the rest of the day bothered. But I couldn’t figure out why. I know, it should be painfully obvious, but trust me – as a parent there are plenty of days that “good communication” just doesn’t happen between you & your children. Yesterday was more than that, but it wasn’t until I was getting ready for bed that it hit me.

Expectation. That was it. What in the world was I expecting my active, intuitive, “excited about new adventures” 3.5 year old child to do in a store like IKEA? In a store that, by it’s own design, is layed out for people (of all ages) to touch, try out, pick up, “experience”? In a store that has a ton of wide-open spaces which to a child would of course cry out “RUN!!”?

And that’s the problem. Not once, the entire morning, did I think about the needs of my child. Oh sure, I packed plenty of snacks, made sure that he was dressed properly, helped him use the potty before we left, etc. A good mother has those types of “needs that need to be met” on her brain practically every second of the day (& night!!). But that’s where it stopped for me. The basics.

As I was regretting all the gruff tones I launched at my boy, the upset looks, the pointed fingers in his face, the exasperated pleas from a mother who simply wanted to enjoy her shopping experience with a friend, I realized I have to do things differently – yet again – with a child in my midst.

If I were to do it all over again (& I probably will at some point!!), then I would have put more thought into what was realistic to expect from my child; I would have communicated those expectations to him before we ever stepped out of the house. I would have cut our shopping experience shorter if he just wasn’t able to abide by those expectations.

If you’ve made it to the end of this post, then I leave with you with a few final thoughts & some questions: I am thankful for grace; thankful for forgiveness; thankful for yet another chance to parent properly; thankful for better days. Hopefully the next time I decide to do an outing that is out of the norm with my little guy I will remember that these days of “little-hood” shouldn’t just be all about me & my comforts. It should be about my children as well.

So tell me: what’s the most recent lesson you have learned while parenting your young ones (or older ones!)? If children aren’t in your life yet, then what is a life lesson you’ve learned recently? Because more & more I’m realizing there are “teaching moments” to be had all around us. Big or little.

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