I had a plan for today. It went like this:
~ wake up
~ rush rush rush stress-out blow-up rush rush
~ pass out from exhaustion
You know, the normal stuff.
Then six-year-old Liam barged into my bathroom before I’d even uncapped the toothpaste and asked, “Mommy, can we go to Oregon Dairy for breakfast?”
This isn’t a common occurrence, so you know. Maybe that’s why I stopped the automatic “nuh-uh” on the tip of my tongue and paused to consider. The request wasn’t just about chocolate-chip-peanut-butter-whipped-cream pancakes. In our house Oregon Dairy Country Restaurant is synonymous with Mommy Date. It’s our special place to connect, where the kids know I’ll be fully present, at least in the time it takes to scarf down some killer pancakes.
I’ve been the opposite of present lately, distracted by too many things of lesser importance, so in answer to Liam’s question I said, “Sure, why not?”
We practiced skip counting in the car, recited memory verses in the parking lot, reviewed Egyptian history while waiting for our order. Then we stuffed ourselves with unhealthy food and had a fabulous time enjoying every bite of it.
As an older woman behind us stood to leave, she caught my eye and smiled. “I just have to tell you what wonderfully behaved children you have,” she said. “Most places I go, the children don’t act like that. But yours were a pleasure to sit behind.”
I thanked her, hoping the shock didn’t register on my face. If she could see them at home, she’d be singing a different tune. Then the memories of two similar encounters resurfaced. Today was the third time in two weeks a stranger had complimented my children’s behavior.
I spent the drive home pondering this phenomenon. My kids aren’t hellions, but they’re not angels, either. We’ve had plenty of trips to the grocery store that ended in tears (usually mine), and I have hours of experiential evidence proving that A.C. Moore is where obedience goes to die. So why the sudden outpouring of praise?
Honestly, the kids had been remarkably quiet, obedient, and patient during the three outings in question (the optometrist, the chiropractor, and the restaurant). I’d reminded, lectured, and threatened them about public behavior too many times without success to believe my parenting deserved credit. So what was the common denominator?
We’d gone to the optometrist without an appointment after an exasperating reading lesson left me questioning my daughter’s eyesight. The chiropractor visit was an urgent attempt to undo the damage to my spine after Liam body slammed me at church. And you already know about the restaurant.
My plan – that was the common thread. In each situation I’d abandoned my schedule for the day and surrendered all expectations of productivity. I’d made a choice to focus on the task at hand, live in the moment, and relax.
“It is no abstract thing – the state of your heart is the state of your home. You cannot harbor resentment secretly toward your children and expect their hearts to be submissive and tender. You cannot be greedy with your time and expect them to share their toys. And perhaps most importantly, you cannot resist your opportunities to be corrected by God and expect them to receive correction from you.”
My kids are most rambunctious when I’m most stressed. It’s easy to tell myself their behavior generates my attitude, but maybe that’s putting the cart before the horse. Am I not the one showing them how life is to be lived? They catch too much from me not to catch the stress, the anxiety, the impatience. If I look inward each time their behavior needs correction, maybe I’l parent with a little more grace and humility.
As for my plan…well, there’s usually a better one. And today it included chocolate-chip-peanut-butter-whipped-cream pancakes.