My oldest kiddo is going into Kindergarten this year. He is so excited. He has been waiting for Kindergarten to start since last March. He's been putting on his backpack, practicing his letters and numbers, and counting down the days.
I'm a teacher. I've experienced many first days—many nervous, excited first days! I get to be on leave this year, so I get to see my firstborn enjoy his first year of school. I look at him and know he is so-o-o ready for the first day of school to come.
And then Sunday happened and I wondered if I am only fooling myself.
It was once of those mornings when he couldn't hold his cup like a five-year-old. He was pretending to be a peacock (of all things!), and peacocks apparently spill the contents of their cups all over the floor. It was one of those mornings when we had to leave in 5 minutes and he interpreted it as about 15 minutes or more. It was one of those mornings when everything was a bit too hectic for my liking and they didn't get any better.
In church, our oldest had to sit in church until it was time to have a "practice" Sunday School time. We had given him the talk about how to sit in church and how big of a voice to use—especially when there was a quiet prayer going on! He was doing alright—kind of wiggly, but we were happy, proud parents. It was that feeling of relief; that our kid was a good one. We had done our job, and done it well. We had taught all the necessary rules and given all the tidbits of wisdom needed to produce a wonderful child.
Then it was off to Sunday School. He listened, he laughed, he sang, he prayed, he had eyes that showed sheer excitement for all that was going on. I was a proud mom. When it was craft time he made his little prayer box—writing his name on it, decorating it with markers and stickers, and putting in papers for future prayers. I smiled at his accomplishments. Then it was off to do part two of the craft—making prayer bookmarks.
And that is when he decided not to cut on the lines, not to colour in the lines, not to listen to the directions and not to listen to mommy.
When your child asks to use permanent markers and you say no, please use the washable ones, and you say this three times to him, I have learned that you STILL must keep a close eye on him. Talking to other parents, even if they are in the chair next to yours is a big No-No! Especially if you have had the type of morning I had! Because that is the time when my son decided to take the permanent purple sharpie and write his name—ON THE TABLE!!! Yep, it was almost as if it has been published in that book, The Purple Crayon. I quickly went into upset-mom-mode. "What did you do? Why would you do that? What did I say to you? Why didn't you listen?" and questions of that sort. I got paper towels, hoping the word permanent was a mistake. But no, permanent markers don't lie. And the purple etching clearly told who had committed the crime!!! One of the dads next to me joked with me that I should teach my son how to write someone else's name, so that person would get in trouble. A mom shared with me how her cousin had actually done that—written her name on something and she had gotten into trouble and that it was this huge joke to this very day! And it was funny—I laughed . . . but this was MY SON! And he had done something wrong!
We went to the leader and my son politely said (on his own),"I'm sorry Mrs.~~~, I wrote on the table in the stain-y kind of markers." And she wonderfully and graciously said, "Oh, that is okay and thank you for telling me." And all was okay—but this was MY SON! And he had done something wrong!
Later when I was having my son try to clean his name off, she told me not to worry about it. And I told her that I was just having a mini-punishment moment. And I continued to worry about it . . . for the rest of the day! And the rest of the day I was tormented by thoughts of: What is he going to do in Kindergarten? What if he does something like that there? Didn't he know better? How are people going to judge me as a mom? What were they going to say about our parenting? Where had we gone wrong? When I told my husband he laughed at the jokes the other parents had made about it, he said that was too bad and it seemed to have been handled well . . . and I couldn't believe that was all he had to say about it, because this was MY SON! And he had done something wrong!
And finally (read: the next morning, after stewing on this for a full day and night), I finally came to my senses. I realized that, yes, this was my son and he had done something wrong. He had felt bad, he had apologized, and he had learned. And that was all. How many times had I been in a similar situation? How many times had something like this happened before? Or one where the wrong-doing was worse or compiled or with no shame? And how many other moms and dads and caregivers have been in the exact same situation? Even as a teacher, I have seen many situations on a similar plane as this. And I respond the same wonderful and gracious way the leader did: "Oh, that is okay and thanks for telling me." Kids make mistakes, and then they learn from them. That is the joy of being a kid. And I don't give it another thought.
And yes, this was my son . . . and realistically . . . how many times would this happen again? Millions! He, along with me (and for that matter even the rest of the world) are fallen creatures. We have fallen short—very short! We are going to sin, we are going to make our Father sad and disappointed and really, how many times has He tried to teach us a lesson and we keep messing it up? But He patiently helps us back onto our feet, and loves us and stays by us until we fall again.
And maybe this was just one more lesson for me, too. You see, my husband and I are trying our very best to raise our children in the way of the Lord. We are doing all we can to teach our children to love and obey God. We are trying to be disciples of Jesus Christ in our family. But this isn't the first time something "went wrong," nor will it be the last. Dealing with it in a Godly manner to correct the behaviour, attitude or action is really what matters. And this wasn't, nor will it ever be, an issue about me and how I look in front of other parents or what other parents might say about what my child did. If other parents are going to talk, so be it. I just hope that the talk will be—or one day be—about how they saw God's love, forgiveness and grace in how we handled the situation at hand. That even in the "bad moments" they saw a testimony to the Christian lifestyle we are trying to uphold. That they saw Jesus in us.
That night, my son wrote a prayer for his prayer box. He wrote, "Please help me listen better" in his squiggly-wiggly phonetic spelling. I smiled. I was a very proud mom. And then I wrote one too: "Please help me show God's love better."