I recently posted the following on a frustrated friend's Facebook status:
ARRRRRG. I am feeling this mama pain more and more as my Mighty Joe doesn't behave as a 5-year-old "should". He fussed like a 3-year-old in the shopping cart today and I could feel the stares that meant they thought I was a rotten mother for not training him better. Worse, I remember giving those stares and tossing that shame at other mothers in stores with children who couldn't behave any differently. I feel a blog post coming on . . .
So here's that blog post.
In the days of my pride and misplaced identity, the days when I measured my worth by my stellar parenting choices and how well my children performed/behaved, I would roll my eyes in disgust when I observed children who were out of control in stores or other public places.
Why couldn't people train their children better?
There was no grace emanating from my puny heart. I couldn't see past the end of my Grinchy nose to consider that maybe just perhaps those struggling parents of that struggling child were in a fight for their lives.
Maybe their treasured 5-year-old had caught a deadly virus that plunged him into a coma and left him with 6 big holes in his brain, void of any gray matter or the parts with which to see and process the world like the rest of us.
Maybe their little boy seemed "normal" from the outside but it takes every little fiber in his soul to control his urges to touch everything he sees, or to lower his vocal volume, or to Sit. Still.
Maybe they, too, were trying to navigate his days, keeping food and drinks away that wreak havoc in his mini body or working the time into their already congested moments to teach him to recognize the number "1", again.
Or maybe it's simpler than that. Maybe his daddy walked out. Maybe his mama has never known support from a spouse. Maybe there's no money, or chronic fatigue, or shadowy memories lurking and looming and crushing.
How could I have poured out mercy and compassion and kindness on that family instead of offering my solutions of discipline and authority?
A smile would have been a good start. Maybe a word of encouragement. "Hang in there, Mom. You're doing a good job." I could have helped her push the stroller, carry the groceries, or bought her a Starbucks card. Right there in the grocery store!
I could have humbled myself like Jesus, met her at the well, and looked past the sins to the heart so broken and searching for love. I could have offered her the living water, the fulfillment of a lifetime. None of that could have happened, though, if what I was offering her was scorn and judgment.
And so, why don't people train their children better? Because we're broken and in need of Jesus. That's always the answer to everything, isn't it? Because sin has entered the world and our babies come broken, too. Let's make a pact, you and I, to love those moms and dads and babies, shall we?
You can see a follow-up to this post here.