As parents, our goal is to raise healthy, compassionate, and productive members of society. Kids, who will grow to be adults, and make our world better. How do we get to that end goal? Trial and error of course. Lots of error in our case.
I took a writing class a lifetime ago, and the instructor used a metaphor that the editing process is like sending your baby on the bus. I didn’t have kids then, but I could certainly understand the concept. Parents send the kids off to school and while some parents may want to protect them and stick up for them and craft only positive experiences, the reality is that kids have to be on their own without our defense, and that process can make them stronger, better. The idea, of course, was that our papers would be critiqued, but we would need to resist the urge to defend them. Resist the urge to be *that* parent.
Fast forward to actual parenthood and actual buses, and I have found this concept to be true. I’ve discovered I am more than willing to send my children off to experience exciting opportunities and even disappointments.
What I didn’t anticipate was having to resist the urge to be *that* parent at home.
If you have more than one kid you know that it can be hard to watch little fists of furry make contact with the bodies of little brothers and sisters. How you want to lovingly guide kids to be kind, use words and not fists, and to settle disagreements rationally. But anyone who has spent a fraction of a second with the ages of 0-5 knows that they do the exact OPPOSITE of this. You also know how your heart can hurt for the one who is in pain, and how it could easily give way to anger towards the one who perpetrated the injury. My blood can admittedly boil when Booger takes advantage of his size and power at the detriment to Obie or Beasty.
Sticks and stones aside, I didn’t expect to be so injured when this conversation took place:
“I don’t like Obie.”
“Oh, buddy, I don’t think you mean that.”
“Yes I do. I don’t like him because he is dumb”
“Honey, that’s not kind. Obie is not dumb.”
“Yes he is. I mean, he can’t even talk.”
I fumbled to conclude this conversation, probably made a billion mistakes, and rushed to find resources to help explain a special needs sibling to a preschooler.
I don’t know what injured me more- that I had failed to create an environment of compassion or that I had failed to convey that differences and abilities don’t mean less than. Either way I felt the pangs of failure.
What I realize now is that this was a gift. This interaction and how I chose to handle it was an opportunity to show grace to one son; it was an opportunity to reflect acceptance and highlight God’s image of another son. It was an opportunity to strengthen Booger’s character, widen his outlook on how to value all of God’s children, and it was an opportunity to strengthen my character, too. I didn’t lash out like I wanted to. I didn’t stomp off, scream, or berate. And in its wake I have found words and phrases to help Booger to understand. To help me understand.
So I keep sending my baby on the bus. I keep praying for his interactions while he is away. And I keep praying for his interactions at home.