First let me just say that parenting is hard.
It’s hard to be consistent, hard to follow through with everything we say, and hard to discipline the little people that we love. But, we do it. Because if we didn’t then our kids would turn into wretched adults, and we all know how much we enjoy those.
And once in awhile we find ourselves really sticking to our guns and following through to make the point, and those moments while hard, they feel good…because we know that the point we’re making is worth the temporary disappointment our kids feel.
I had one of those moments today.
I took my boys to get some new shoes because we’ve recently begun attending a new church that is closer to our house (we were driving nearly an hour since we moved back in the Spring.) So now that I’m a charisbyterian (that’s charismatic presbyterian), we’ve noticed a few things like “church shoes” that seem to be the norm. We decided to meet our new Presbyterian friends in the middle and at least maybe not wear say, snow boots to church on a sunny day like my son did on Sunday. So I took my boys to get some more casual but appropriately church-style shoes.
Well, my youngest is maybe 3 weeks out from needing some new shoes in general, and so when he wanted to try on half the store today and found a snazzy pair of casual Sketchers he liked, I agreed to get them, albeit a tad earlier than absolutely necessary. The three of us walked up to the counter so that I could pay for the shoes, and while I was paying, my two boys, were being boys…a little rowdy, but nothing too bad. But then my oldest grabbed a rubberband from beside the cash register and began pretending to shoot it at my youngest. So of course, little brother grabs a rubberband from beside the cash register and puts it Rambo-style around his head and begins to sort of grunt and declare war.
Right there in the checkout line.
I put out my hand to collect the rubberbands and as my 5 year-old peered over the counter at the stash of rubberbands again, I said to him, “If you touch the bag of rubberbands again, I will not buy these special shoes.”
So what do you think he did, just seconds after I finished signing my name to the credit card slip?
Yep…he grabbed a rubberband.
And this was the moment that I felt good…because it was the moment I looked at the clerk and said “I’m so sorry, but I need to return this pair of shoes.”
It was totally a moment that I could have walked out because the deed was done and figured out some creative consequence later, but something in me said, “do this now…keep your word on this.”
So I did. And I knew it was the right thing to do.
At which point, my 5 year old began to cry and then sat on the floor by my feet and began swatting at my leg. I leaned over and whispered in his ear to please stop that we were leaving shortly, but it was one of those moments that clearly wasn’t just going to end there. He kept swatting my ankles, and I resolved to finish what I was doing and continue our course of discipline once we left the store.
But then…a gruff man from behind pipes up, clearly intending for me to hear….
“If he was mine, I’d beat his ass good.”
My blood began to boil but I faced forward as the clerk was grabbing the receipt from my bag to process the return.
“I’d whoop his ass…you need to whoop his ass. There’s a whole rack of belts right here.”
Well…now he was clearly addressing me.
“Sir, I can appreciate you have opinions on discipline, but he is not yours, so I’d appreciate if you’d keep your opinions to yourself.”
He had no intention of stopping.”That is ridiculous…he is physically abusing you. You need to whip his ass good.”
My face felt frozen in rage as if I were some waxen figure in Madame Tussauds museum. I pushed up my sleeves and whipped around to face Mr. Opinions himself in too tight jeans and a dingy wife-beater tank top.
“So you want to solve it by me physically abusing him? Sir, I am the parent here and your opinions and disciplinary tactics are not welcome.” My teeth were clenched to hold back all the things I wanted to really say, but didn’t because somewhere deep in my spirit, I remembered that while I sure as heck wasn’t going to die for this man, Jesus did.
“All I’m sayin’ is that this kid needs his ass whooped.” I wondered how many more times he was going to say “ass” in front of my children. He looked at my with some version of righteous indignation and my mind raced with all the ways I could tear him up one side and down the other with rhetoric that I felt sure would make his head spin.
“I would cuss you out if I did not love Jesus…” I didn’t say it, but it was nearly all I could think as my entire body felt tingly with rage. My eyes were practically propped wide open, I’m certain my nostrils flared like a horse just off the track, and my focus to finish what I was doing and get the heck out of there was laser sharp.
I signed my name to the return slip and said “Come on” to my kids over my shoulder as I began walking towards the door.
It came from a small voice on the floor in front of the counter.
I didn’t even turn around when I pointed behind me and said, “Then hitch a ride with that man.”
Both of my kids raced to the door to catch up with me.
For the LOVE!!! You’ve been there right? If you’re a parent, I KNOW you’ve been there!
But y’all…I don’t even have to think long to know that I absolutely, positively, would have cussed that man out if I did not love Jesus. And in my fallen mind, especially for the next 5 minutes, I thought of all the wretched things I really wanted to say. I nearly emptied out my brain of nasty and it was almost shocking how fast I could do it too.
Renewing the mind needs to happen, because there’s that old mind that still comes back from time to time. Am I right?
But for crying out loud people…it was actually a GOOD parenting moment…it was a hard one, but it was going to end up somewhere good. But rather than encourage the resolve to be consistent, a complete stranger thought the best way to help me out was to beat me up. And while I know I have a LONG way to go to sanctification, at least I’ve come far enough to put self-control to some good use somewhere along the way.
How about we all give one another some grace? How about we cheer FOR one another? How about the next time you see a mama or daddy sticking to what they said, you tell them “way to go, this thing is hard, and you’re doing a great job.”
Come, O children, listen to me;
[box] Come, O children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD. What man is there who desires life and loves many days, that he may see good? Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit. Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it. Ps 34:11–14[/box]