I spent about half an hour or so this morning talking to Ken and Linda about parenting. I love having them in my life to draw wisdom from because prior to knowing them the only parenting example I really had came from my long-ago memories of my mom and dad, and from the example my sisters set with their families, which was pretty good. I think if I had not been mostly brought up by those three amazing women I would not be the person I was today. Whether they meant to or not, I think they taught me how to treat women in the way God would want them treated. It was all I knew growing up, and it’s how I hope to raise my boys up, so that when they’re older, they won’t depart from it.
But this morning, I was thinking about how I need to really reboot myself and my life in the way I handle things like conflict, and disappointment, and even something as simple as inconvenience. We talked about how important it is to treat the boys the same. Not that I meant to do differently, but because he’s only now entering his toddler years, John understandably got a lot more attention. David spent the first 6 years of his life as an only child, and it had to have been incredibly difficult for him to suddenly have this new person come along and feel like he was booted into second place.
It’s on me to rectify any problems, because there’s nothing wrong with the kids that isn’t the result of some behavior of mine, or to a lesser extent my wife’s. Their behavior is a result of ours. If I want them to behave differently, then I need to get my head out of my butt and do the same.
I had an experience this Saturday at Walmart with the boys that I shared with the FCC kids yesterday that maybe would illustrate my point better than my words alone.
We had gone to the Ave B Walmart to get just a few things, and the excursion went relatively smoothly, with the exception that I had forgotten to take anything for my shoulder, and I had been moving around quite a bit, so it was tired and pretty sore. David got into my car fine, and John had just climbed into his seat but had not been buckled in yet. I was loading my few purchases into the trunk and I could see them both looking at me through the back window.
Come on, I thought. Get in your freakin seats, I wanna go home and hit the extra strength Tylenol. I was one-handing a twelve pack of Fresca into the trunk, when I sensed two people walking up. What now? I thought, and sighed.
It was a man that looked to be in his late seventies and a woman in probably her 50’s pushing an empty cart. The man looked healthy, but tired, and smelled of Old Spice. It made me think of my dad. The woman was wearing what could probably be best described as a “grandma dress,” and looked to have Down syndrome. She had that look of youthful wonder on her face that all Down syndrome people have, and she walked right up to me and smiled, then pointed at the sling on my left arm.
“What happened to your arm?” She asked.
I saw the boys looking out the back window, and I realized I was going to have to man up and not be a jerk toward this woman and the man who looked to be her father no matter how I felt.
I told her I’d gotten an operation to fix my rotator cuff.
“Does it hurt?”
“It hurts sometimes,” I said, “But I take medicine to make it feel better.”
“My daddy takes medicine, too” she said. “I take it sometimes.”
“I don’t like it,” I told her. “But it helps, so I take it.”
“How many kids do you have?” She asked.
“Two,” I said. “They’re in the back seat right there.”
“How old are they?”
“They’re nine and two.”
“What are their names?”
“David and John. John is the little guy.”
“You must be so happy,” she said.
It was like a smack to my self-serving consciousness. Of course, I was happy. “They’re pretty great,” I told her. “God’s really blessed me.”
“Ok, bye,” she said, and she and her dad began walking into the store.
“Well, then.” I said. The boys had begun what sounded like a cage match in the back seat, and I realized I was going to have to get moving, especially if we were gonna get the house squared away before my wife got home.
David asked me why I was talking to the woman, and I explained to them that God had made that woman special, and that sometimes people like that need a little extra kindness, because they often don’t get any at all.
It was really an amazing experience, and I don’t think I will forget that beautiful little woman as long as I live. She didn’t know me from anyone, but she just shined when she was talking to me. It made me understand why so many people refer to others with Down’s and other similar syndromes and disorders as angels. I think they are angels, in a sense. They have no guile about them, They have a pureness and a soft beauty about them that to me is very humbling.
So this morning when I left Ken and Linda’s after I dropped John off it occurred to me that we are all special, and all have special needs.
But we are also all the same.
Down syndrome, autism spectrum disorder, tourette’s syndrome, cancer, Aspergers. Or “normal” people (whatever that means).
We are all the same.
We have a need within us that can only be filled by love.
I have the responsibility as a parent to show my kids where that love comes from, and that no height, or depth, or famine, or sword, or anything can separate them from it.
I can’t do that if I’m so caught up in the areas of their lives and personalities that I feel need repair that I cannot see them for the imperfect yet beautiful creations they are.
I can’t do that if I forgot to love them before I try and discipline them or teach them anything.
I can’t expect them to see Jesus outside the home if they don’t first see it inside the home. Like it or not, whatever understanding they eventually come to about God will be made through a filter that looks like me.
So I need to show them Jesus in my life before he can mean anything in theirs. I need to put my own garbage on the back burner and man up.
You must be so happy.
Yes, I think I actually am. I plan to start acting like it.