Sunday, May 24, 2009

Sunday Inspirations May 24, 2009

As my littlest and I went to go pick up B at school the other day, A was doing her typical tricks of finding ways to walk right in front of the path of everyone around her. One of those people happened to be a particular woman with whom I’d never really been able to “read.” For the most part she kept strictly to herself. She’s older, maybe in her mid-sixties, and taking care of her grandchildren.

I apologized when A stopped right in front of her, laughing it off but feeling a bit awkward at the same time since I hardly knew this woman, but she just smiled and walked on, leaving us to follow. To my surprise she stopped, turned, and smiled again.

“Do you know,” she said, “Your children are such happy children. I always see them smiling and laughing and happy. That really goes to show what their home life is like. You must all be very happy at home.”

What a compliment! I thanked her profusely, thinking that would be the end of our conversation, but she continued.

“You know, I’m raising my grandchildren right now because my daughter can’t seem to get her life together. She misses them so much, but doesn’t get that if she’d clean herself up she could have them back. The two older kids, now teens, are in all sorts of trouble and just plain mean because of the way their mom and dad handled them. They started out so sweet as little children.” She shook her head, obviously saddened by the paths her progeny had chosen. “You mark my words. Your kids will turn out to be happy teens because they have a happy home.”

I couldn’t have been paid a more beautiful compliment. Of course she could have no idea of what our home life is truly like – the fights and arguments and tattling and other “normal” growing up pains of life. She may not have realized that even in the happiest of homes we all have the agency to choose who we will listen to most, and many a sweet and wonderful child has opted to listen to those who would lead them down dark paths.

I thought about what this woman had said to me again yesterday as our family headed out to Costco to look for glasses. As anyone who has visited Costco around lunchtime with children knows, their thoughts will immediately turn to the little booths of free samples they can go through and enjoy….or spit up into Mom’s hand ‘cause it didn’t taste as good as they thought it might.

My B, who is so famous for saying words wrong in our house, calls them “free examples.” Every time he says this I come back with, “But honey, every example is free.” He’s learned to ignore this reply and still calls it examples. Silly boy.

It’s true, though. Every example is free. We have only to watch those around us, to listen to what they have to say, to decide who to follow. The most formative years in a child’s life are in those first six years. In our family, this means times up for three of them, with only one (rather stubborn) child to go. But continuing to teach and help children learn how to put what they’ve learned into practice is every bit as vital.

“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6).

This scripture has come to my mind repeatedly since that day at the school. Most especially yesterday as tempers between my children grew fierce. At one point J pushed B just a little too far, but instead of using his words to let J know how he was feeling, B hit him. I’d simply had it by that time, most particularly because we were all in the car and the noise level had grown a little too loud.

“When I get mad at you, or when dad gets mad at you, do we hit you? Do we kick you? Do we pinch and bite and hurt you? Do we slap you?”

Of course the answer was no. Very rarely have we taken a hand to one of our children.

“Then why do you all think it’s okay to hit and hurt each other?”

I have to say I was honestly surprised to see they all really stopped to think about it. I have no idea one of them will push another to the point he/she lashes out with a hit or kick, but the teaching continues on.

I am not a perfect parent by any means. The list of ways in which I feel like an inadequate parent is too long for words (and very frankly would depress me too much to type out). But for the most part I sincerely hope my kids know they can look to both their father and me as good examples of how to handle life – as well as how to handle ourselves when we do something wrong.

As I learned a few days ago, it’s not just our children that are watching. There are others around us, those we may not even think are paying the least attention, who are looking to see what sort of people we really are.

What sort of free example are you?

1 comment:

Burwell's Bits said...

What a great commentary. I especially love your reaction to the kids hitting one another. I am going to share this with A. and use this. Thanks. Have a wonderful and peaceful week!