Last weekend (the weekend before Mother’s Day) was a fairly bad weekend and I largely have myself to blame. Sure, I could throw all sorts of excuses at you, but in the end, I only need to look in the mirror to see the culprit behind last week’s debacle. You see, my wife was gone on a four day retreat with ladies from our church, so it was a dad weekend with the kids. Normally, those weekends usually go off without a hitch, but not last weekend. When I think back to where things fell apart, it doesn’t take much to see where I went wrong.
Thursday night: After hanging out at the library watching a super cool presentation on the Pacific Crest Trail, I headed to the grocery store with a small list. I ended up buying a few extra items, all of which contributed to my #parentfail weekend. My list included items for make-your-own pizza, while the extras included a mountain or Oreo cookies (we need dessert, right?), chocolate milk and Coke (hey, mom’s gone, and the kids will think I’m cool) and a few other unnecessary, “dad’s cool,” items.
Friday night: First, the only good good move of the weekend, was when I took the kids to the park and let them burn off a bunch of energy before dinner. (That concludes my parenting weekend successes). We fixed dinner (a little late) and then made sure everyone had several dozen Oreos, drank ourselves silly with an endless fountain of Coke and chocolate milk, then stayed up well-past midnight watching movies together.
Saturday morning: The kids were up by 7:30 (we usually help them sleep 9-10 hours a night), and they plopped themselves right back in front of the TV until almost 11. Why? Because it was easier to let them veg out then to have to actually offer good parenting. By 11am it dawned on me that over the previous 16 hours, I had allowed by kids to watch 9 hours of TV (movies, Sponge Bob and more Sponge Bob). I don’t know about your house, but without a doubt, TV consumption increases fights, irritability, eating and general family chaos. And since our kids are used to a couple of hours of TV over a whole weekend, this overdose was beginning to take effect.
Saturday afternoon: By 1pm, I had already refereed several fights, comforted multiple bouts of tears, repeated these phrases a dozen times each: “Please take a deep breath” and “Think before you speak” and “Please, for the love of all things holy, stop farting in the kitchen!” and, “I’m going to sell all three of you on eBay later today.”
I won’t bore you with more details of my epic weekend.
Have you ever had moments like that? You ever a weekend go bad (with kids, with your spouse, with friends, with work or family)? You ever had a whole week, or month, just bite-it because you made a series of bad decisions? We all have, and here are a few lessons I learned after my weekend bender with the kids.
Bad decisions lead to other bad decisions: As I was thinking about this blog post, I was reminded of a Facebook thread I read a while back. A guy I don’t know well, had posted about the end of his week. Apparently the last couple days of work had been awful, and on Friday he blew up, cursed out his boss, and was sent home early. He described the situation on Facebook, and concluded with, “Anyone want to help me forget about this week by meeting me at [x] bar?” Saturday he posted that the weekend was not improving as he woke up with a nasty headache and felt like a “flu” truck had run him over. Sunday he picked up a speeding ticket trying to get back to his house so he could get some decent sleep to start the week off better than the previous one had started/ended.
Think about that progression: Cursed out his boss (bad choice), drank himself silly (bad choice) woke up severely hung over (bad choice) sped home to avoid starting a week poorly (bad choice) and ultimately started Monday much worse off than he ended Friday (which wasn’t great to begin with!). One bad choice -- choosing not to control his temper -- led to a whole series of bad choices, each compounding the situation.
I did the same thing to my kids over the weekend. My wife generally feeds the family pretty healthy meals and we try to avoid sugaring up the kids excessively. Over the years we’ve seen how much diet affects attitude and outlook on life. We also try to limit how much screen time they get because we’ve seen the connection between how much screen time they get, and how much more arguing and fighting happens. I loaded them up with tons of sugar and then let them veg-out for hours.
Getting a mountain of Oreos wasn’t bad in and of itself, but adding the chocolate milk and coke compounded the one decision. Adding in a family movie wasn’t a bad idea by itself, but turning Movie Night into Movie Coma Night really exaggerated the issues we faced the next day. Usually, when we make one intentionally bad decision, we set ourselves up to make many, because bad decisions are like gum on the bottom of your shoe -- they attract all the garbage on which you step.
Solomon said it this way: “As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats their folly” (Proverbs 26:11, NIV).
Bad decisions usually lead to blame: Like politicians, bad decisions like to hang out in groups and blame others. Once bad decisions start piling up in our lives, we usually start blaming others for the situations that result. Traci and I know a family that has a legacy of bad decision making, one that often involves illegal activities. It’s amazing how often we’ll hear this family blame the police or blame their neighbors or blame someone for making their lives so awful. The reality is their daily choices leave them in such a pit of despair and emptiness, they just need someone else to blame so that they don’t have to stop making bad choices.
I’ve seen it in leadership, I’ve seen it in the church and in the workplace, and I’ve seen it glaringly in my own life: when people suffer the consequences of bad decisions, blaming others is an easy way to feel better (at least in the short-term). But since the problem doesn’t ultimately rest with others, blaming does nothing to solve the real problem.
Bad decisions are just one decisions away from dying: No matter how bad the decisions are that we’ve made, it only takes one right choice to start putting an end to they cycle of making bad decisions. Once we own our mistakes, we can start dealing with the consequences (since we’re not blaming others) and start looking for a new way to see and experience life. It’s simple, but not easy!
My friend Tim, from Texas, used to clock in at close to 500 pounds. I didn’t know him back then, but he would be the first to tell you that he was making a lot of bad decisions when it came to his health (and of course, there were a lot of “good reasons” for those choices). Finally, the day came where he made just one choice, and it was a choice that would change his health forever, as he determined 500 pounds wasn’t going to cut it for the quality of life he desired. Not that long ago, Tim posted on Facebook that he had dropped below the 250 pound mark, and he was still going strong.
Bad decisions compound in a hurry, but so do good ones! When we embrace the journey God has given us, and when we own the times we’ve chosen poorly, made it more complicated than it needed to be or we just blew it, then we can get back on track in a hurry. Just like a whole bunch of bad decisions had Tim tipping the scale at 500 lbs, a whole bunch of good ones helped him reclaim his life.
Thankfully, my weekend was saved before Traci got home on Sunday. Saturday afternoon I fed the kids a decent lunch, kicked them outside to enjoy a “warm” northern Michigan day (hey, 50 degrees is practically Summer around here!) and then had them help with dinner later that night. They all had hot showers, we enjoyed the movie National Treasure before bed, and we took some time to thank God for our situation, for Traci’s retreat weekend and, in CJ’s words, “A great day!” Sunday, Traci came home to three kids that were clean, mostly fed and all generally pretty happy. She might submit my name for Dad of the Year, and just between you and me, let’s not ruin the magic.
The point is simple: one good decision on Saturday allowed for more good decisions, which ultimately changed the whole outcome of our weekend. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not promising rainbows and butterflies or health and financial blessing because you make one good decision today, what I am promising is that life is always better after a good choice. Solomon reminds us that it is truly a blessed life to live with wisdom (Proverbs 13:3), to live with good choices, even if your circumstances haven’t changed.
I wish all bad decisions could be remedied in the course of an afternoon. I am thankful, however, that in an afternoon, regardless of the misery I’ve caused myself in the past, I can make a choice that can lead me out of the foolishness I’ve temporarily embraced. What decision do you need to make today, in order to start reversing a bad trend in your life? Maybe you need to make the choice to seek God’s forgiveness or the forgiveness of someone near you. Maybe you need to hire a coach or personal trainer. Maybe you need to seek accountability from a trusted friend. Maybe you just need to publicly declare an intention to move forward. Whatever it is, remember, you’re just one good choice away from starting something great in your life.
Go ahead and take the plunge, life is always better on the water!