One purple balloon slipped away from little fingers and floated to the sky. One little heart broke as the tears poured from the boy’s eyes. In an instant, the carefree morning became unbearable as it seemed a child’s entire world had imploded. All because of one purple balloon. What do we do when our children experience everyday woes? Not the earth-shattering, life or death scenarios, but the ice cream falling on the floor, misplaced ball cap, or loss of a purple balloon scenarios.
In this instance, I chose not to drop everything to get another balloon. If we see them for what they are, minor moments like this can be major opportunities to teach. I looked into my son’s eyes, brushed my hands through his hair, and told him how sorry I was about his balloon. I told him that we would get another before we left—but that, first, I needed to finish getting the items in our grocery cart. My reply was not the answer he wanted in that moment, but I did feel it was the one he needed. I showed empathy but didn’t crack under parenting pressure.
While we continued our quest for peppermint extract, another purple balloon appeared and was placed on his wrist by someone we had never seen. With that gesture, one little boy’s world was rectified, and mine was stunned. I looked in the stranger’s eyes, thanked her for her generosity, and pointed out her kindness to my son in front of her. We parted ways, and our brief interaction continued playing through my head in a stream of questions. It went something like this:
“Am I a bad mom for not having dropped everything to get him another balloon at that exact moment?”
“Is instant gratification the right thing to teach a child?”
“Did this stranger think I was a terrible mom for not putting his wants first?”
“Why do I care what a stranger thinks?”
“Does she know she changed our entire day with her simple gesture?”
“Is she an angel? Because I had not even seen her on the aisle before she gave him a new balloon.”
While my mind went full steam ahead, I ultimately concluded the situation was a “win” for everyone involved, and one purple balloon led to much deeper teachable moments. My son saw that he was loved and supported by me, but he was not given authority to rule the moment. He also learned how we can give to people without them asking, just as the woman had given the balloon to him. For me, I learned to accept a blessing without obsessing over it. And for the woman, I hope she learned how one small gesture can change the course of a family’s morning and cause great elation.
We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they are good for us—they help us learn to be patient. And patience develops strength of character in us and helps us trust God more each time we use it until finally our hope and faith are strong and steady. (Romans 5:3-4, NLT)
I don’t know about you, but I firmly believe our children need to learn while they are young how to express and then manage their emotions. Most would agree there are plenty of adults who still have not learned to appropriately navigate these arenas, and it often leaves them in an ocean when, in reality, it was merely a puddle. So how do we stay on our “A-game” as parents when life is unpredictable as a box of chocolates?
*Purposefully pray. There are untold treasures to be had when we pray in front of our children. Pray aloud in the car so your kids can hear your petitions and further prepare themselves for where you are going and the possible scenarios that may come into play.
*Purposefully prepare. When we remind our kids who they are, Whose they are, and that we can either act like “light” or “darkness,” we can better maneuver through the emotions that come our way—caused by things like the purple balloon.
*Purposefully plan. When the day is done, run through the high and low points of your day and talk about how things can be done differently next time—because there will be a next time.
Children only have one childhood, and while it most certainly won’t be perfect, it can be purposeful when we step in to their hurts and walk with them. While doing so, we need to recognize that what may seem insignificant to us is mind-blowingly big to them. While trying to teach them how to gauge what they are feeling and why, we need to also maintain the dynamic of solid parent to child interaction and instruction. While the fallen ice cream, the misplaced ball cap, or lost balloon may rock our child’s world, it is not life or death. Helping them learn patience and wisdom is going to equip them for the future. Along the way, we may lose a few purple balloons, but deep and valuable lessons are left in their place.
Gabbie Nolen-Fratantoni loves Jesus and is passionate about serving him through the arts by leading worship and writing for various ministries. She is married to Greg, her hard-working, iron-sharpening-iron spouse. They are opposite in personality but equal in dedication to their marriage and family. Gabbie and Greg are the proud and sleep-deprived parents of two active, sweet, and fun boys and recently welcomed the arrival of their first little girl. An Aggie and graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary, Gabbie is a small-town country girl trapped in the city and loves getting to know people and encouraging them as they seek to know Jesus and make him known.
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