Yesterday morning, the tribe was terribly excited about our planned outing to the dog show. The local expo and conference center has lined up five all-breed dog shows in five days, and there’s just something about kids and dogs. I had seen an ad for the shows in one of the local publications geared towards parents and families with kids, shared the link with our parish moms’ group, and explained to the children what a dog show is. Verily, our house was full of jubilant anticipation.
About twenty minutes before we were to leave, I checked Facebook to see if any of ther other moms from our playgroup were coming, had questions, or needed directions. A friend had taken a closer look at the show catalog, and from her reading discerned something I had overlooked, to wit: the catalog clearly, if in small print, stated, “No strollers allowed in the building.”
Stroller bans are problematic to a family such as ours, since the tribe is comprised of four children under the age of 5, two under the age of 2. I can either carry the six month old or the 21 month old, but not both, and Mr. Man (the toddler guy) is still a little shaky on the concept of holding hands and not tearing off towards the shiny (or otherwise interesting) thing. Personally, I’m a little shaky on the concept of carrying an 18 pound baby guy while taking off at a dead run to catch the toddler guy and praying that the preschooler girls either keep up with me or stay exactly where I left them.
At that point, I did something that violates one of my own principles. I rationalized. After all, the stroller ban was written into the section entitled, “Rules for Exhibitors,” and I certainly wassn’t an exhibitor. The rule couldn’t possibly apply to me. Anyone who read my entry about the father who blamed Google for making his daughter cry probably knows where this is going — and I deserve all the laughter that is about to be directed at me.
Naturally, when we arrived at the aforementioned expo center, there were two enormous signs on the door stating, in large, bold, capital letters, “NO STROLLERS ALLOWED.” I took a deep breath, rested my forehead against the steering wheel for a moment, then pulled into a parking space at the far end of the lot. At least two out of the four passengers were going to be displeased (Baby Guy just kind of goes with the flow, and Mr. Man is easy to redirect, particularly if something tasty is involved). Trying to keep the disappointment out of my own voice, I informed our children that we would not, in fact, be attending the dog show, as the stroller ban would render such attendance a logistical impossibility without the aid of another adult who could either carry Baby Guy or ride herd on Mr. Man. Perhaps this weekend, I told them, when Daddy would be able to come, but not today.
Bugaboo (4 1/2) and Beanie (3 1/2) were howlingly, tearfully displeased by this news. They had, they informed me, been looking forward to seeing the doggies all week, and how could those mean people at the dog show possibly not let our stroller in, and they still wanted to go see the doggies, and so on. Luckily, they are kindhearted enough little girls that they did not suggest leaving their brothers in the van, and wise enough not to suggest that I allow them to go in without me. However, I quickly noticed that their ire was directed at the organizers of the dog show.
It would be so much easier to let the girls be angry with the dog show people for ruining their good time. It would also be the wrong lesson. After taking a deep breath, I explained to them (several times, varying my phrasing) that the fault was not that of the show organizers. Mommy had read the rules, I told my children, and had made a willful, conscious choice to disregard them, to see if maybe we could get away with bringing our stroller, even though it was clear that it wouldn’t be allowed. In other words, I told the tribe that I was wrong, and that their upset should be directed at me, not the kennel club.
Teachable moments happen, sometimes, when I do things as a parent that I’ve taught my children are wrong. My disregard of the posted rules resulted in hurt to my children, and I was obliged, in honesty, to explain to them that it isn’t the fault of the rules’ promulgator, but of the responsible adult who chose to try to break those rules. Thankfully, our children are at an age where chocolate milk and hugs can fix almost anything. Thankfully, I got my object lesson in paying attention to the rules before it was something where the damage couldn’t be fixed with chocolate milk and hugs.
Today’s prayer: Lord, Your blessings were sad yesterday because of my poor choice. You have given me the ability to discern right and wrong, and Your Scripture helps me teach it to Your blessings. Lord, please remind me that children aren’t the only ones who need reminders about choosing wisely, and help me see the consequences to them when I am making decisions that affect them.
And Lord, please remind me to take responsibility for the consequences of my freely made choices, instead of casting about for someone to blame or someone to make the consequences disappear.