Every parent knows that feeling of "whose child is this, where did they come from? and why are they acting this way?!" Take my sweet fun loving baby girl Vivian for example. At 18 months she was already showing her independent streak of "all by self!!" when she pulled a chair from the dining room to the kitchen counter. Once there, she got her prepared bowl of food and a spoon, crawled back down with it (without spilling), and headed back to the dining room. I found her sitting in her seat munching happily. Apparently, I had taken too long and she took care of the problem "all by self"!
That's a cute example. But when that same independent streak showed up in Walmart last week it looked a little differently. Well, technically, it sounded a little differently... A lot like a blood-curdling scream that even the lawn and garden guy probably heard all the way from where we stood trying to select broccoli in frozen foods. The injustice? Being made to sit in the cart rather than walk "like Tessa". Being a mom with four kids in the grocery store already brings looks of pity, admiration, and "you do know what causes that, right???". I'd be rich and relaxed from all the massages I could pay for if I got a dollar for every time someone said, "You've got a lot of helpers there!" My response? "Sure do! The best kind of helpers!" And I mean it! Even after they have kept me waiting to move on to the next aisle while they restock yet another shelf of produce. Or my sweet boy who thinks every store operates like Aldi so grabs empty boxes as we shop. I say it loud and proud every time, cause I want my kids to know my love is not conditional on getting out of a store without wiping out another fruit snack display (true story!), or, contingent upon "hands on the cart, eyes straight ahead, smiles, and manners all around...let's do this, people!!!". My love is big enough to look past hangry, and give-me, and all the tantrums that might arise in between. (For those concerned: my mama-love has a special place for those too, and it ain't no Blind Eye.)
But, my little people are growing up! Their world is big and scary sometimes. And if I am big and scary too, then their God will be big and scary. I have to be a safe place. My love has to be big enough to take their fear and anger and sadness with their happy, fun, and cute. Because I am showing them a reflection of who God is and Who He can be. So, when Vivi had a full-blown meltdown in the frozen food aisle - somewhere between hash browns and the decidedly-oblivious older couple who huddled together oh so grateful their days of toddlers were over - I just stopped. I took into account that she had skipped her nap, been in our homeschool group all day, she was hungry, and, that she just wanted what looked like freedom down on that speckled tile floor. Mid-scream, I just pulled her into a bear hug as she stood in the back of the shopping cart. I spoke into her ear until she stopped. And then she was given two choices: the front of the cart or the back of the cart. She knew she was staying in that cart. She knew she had better not scream again. But she also knew she had been heard.
Lest you get the wrong idea, during that whole scene I was very aware of the onlookers. I was also aware that three of those onlookers were my other precious kiddos. While not everyone may agree with the method, I do not parent my kids for strangers or even other family members. I must endeavor to intentionally parent my children with consistency, grace, boundaries, and unconditional love. They must know that my expectations come from a realistic place. One that says, "No matter the occasion. No matter the experience. Your best is enough because YOU are enough." The only way I am humanly able to pull that off is by knowing that I am enough because HE is enough. That my weakness is made perfect by His strength shining through me. For sure, there are moments where I blow it and have to eat Humble Pie. And trust me, if I'm going to eat pie, I can think of better tasting ones! But, it is in my humility, that my kids get to see the beauty of imperfection. The hopefulness of a Heavenly Father Who gives out grace freely and abundantly. That kind of grace is what makes a family a really special place to be. Our kids need it from us. We need it from our kids. And as spouses, we need it from each other. As we give and receive grace and forgiveness, we are giving and receiving Christ's love!
And that's something that we all need.
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