Everyone else was gone, and I was still waiting for my daughter to come out of the locker room after hockey practice last night. I finally went looking for her. I found her with her nose pressed to the glass, watching the travel team, which included many of her teammates from the past two seasons, practice.
"We need to go," I said.
Uh-oh, I thought. Here we go again.
When we got to the car and started home, I said, "Do you want to tell me why you're mad?"
"When you're ready to talk about it, I'll be happy to talk to you."
About halfway home, she finally spoke up. "I'm mad you won't let me play travel hockey."
Ahh. Finally. We've known she was upset that most of her friends tried out for the travel team. We've heard about how upset she was. We've been over and over the reasons that she couldn't play -- money, time, family -- but she clearly hadn't settled those things in her mind. To her, we're just being mean.
So, I sent up a prayer for wisdom and tackled the subject again. I gave her a breakdown of the cost. I explained that it would split up our family nearly every weekend for five months, and then I had a stroke of divine inspiration. I explained that we had made our decision out of love. I told her that we love her and her sister too much to deprive them of time with us and time with each other. I explained that we made the decision that was best for our entire family.
It wasn't that we didn't want her to play travel hockey. It's that we didn't want to add the strain to our family. It's that we want to spend time with her. We want to have time together as a family.
Then, I told her she had a choice: She could live in the land of "what if" and "I wish" or she could choose to enjoy the hockey season to the fullest. She could make the best memories she could with her house team. She could focus on learning and having fun every time she was on the ice. Or, she could sulk her way through the season. It was her choice.
Sometimes, as parents, we have to make the best decision we can make for our families. And sometimes that decision makes our kids mad. It's OK to let them stomp and stew and express their disappointment. It's OK for our kids to be upset. But it's also our job to help our kids deal with that disappointment, to help them move on and enjoy what they do have.
Too often, kids want to focus on the things that they don't have. They get caught in the cycle of "I want" or "what if," and that's a dangerous place to live. It results in discontentment and frustration. Philippians 4:11 says "I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances." We want our kids to learn to be content even when we make decisions they don't agree with. And the only way we can do that is by helping our kids understand help our kids understand that we make decisions based on our love for them -- not simply because we want them to be miserable.
Take the time to explain difficult decisions to your kids -- multiple times if necessary. Then, make sure they know that the choice to be content in what they consider a crummy circumstance is entirely up to them. Help them to focus on what they do have instead of what they don't.
Our kids won't like every decision we make, but we can help them understand those decisions and learn to be content in the midst of those circumstances.