Last week I was grocery shopping. My 2 year old son was, shall we say, exuberantly sharing his love of Justin Bieber by belting out, "Baby O". I was encouraging him to be quiet by feeding him miniature marshmallows but enough people were laughing that he felt encouraged to continue his operatic performance.
One audience member was obviously disgruntled, however. A young twenty-something audibly muttered, "My kids will never act like that."
Ha! Famous last words, sister.
Upon beginning the adventure of parenting, and possibly even before parenting is even contemplated, most young adults will see a child behaving badly and say to themselves, "My child will never act that way."
I, too, said that I would never have a child that acted a certain way: whiny, demanding, wild, pouty, spoiled, aloof, hateful, rude. You get the picture.
I have four children and can now say that I have had a child act out every possible way in public, and lived to tale the tale. Be comforted in the knowledge that the children were thoroughly disciplined. However, even the best parenting is occasionally rewarded with the worst behavior.
Pride comes before the fall. Never truer words were spoken. In my parenting career there have been moments that I have felt supercilious; I have looked upon my skills and felt something that moved beyond pleasure and into pride. I am then, almost immediately, served a large slice of humble pie.
I once bragged to a friend that my kids did chores everyday without having to be nagged. Later that afternoon a friend stopped by to drop off some books she had borrowed. She asked to use the bathroom before she had to leave to run errands. I thought I would double check to make sure there was nothing horrible happening in the main powder room.
I'm pretty sure that a frat house would have had a cleaner bathroom. I've tried to block out a lot from that moment but I do remember large quantities of toilet paper mixed with large quantities of clothing and towels that had all been drenched in equally large quantities of water. Also, someone had apparently enjoyed a snack of milk and cookies while they did there business as there was a mug of milk on the counter nearest the toilet as well as cookie crumbs on the toilet seat. I wish I were exaggerating.
I remember watching children in stores beg and plead with their parents to buy them a certain toy or packet of gum or one of the myriad of evil knickknacks waiting for us in the checkout line. I thought to myself, "Thank you God that my children don't drive me nuts like that."
Soon after I gave birth to our third child who has not blessed me with not just one episode of check-out line freakouts but years of these dramas. I've had customers standing behind me slip me five dollar bills in an attempt to get me to cave just so they didn't have to listen to it. Once he even shouted, "Oh no! You're making the face! You're going to lock me in the closet and beat me!" This kid taught me perseverance, patience, and to leave him at home whenever we were entering a public store. Seriously. I didn't take him to a store for 2 years after that.
I can also remember when we began our journey in youth ministry. There was always one sulky adolescent who refused to participate or give a reason for their lack of excitement about life.
So, now I have a teenager who takes a book everywhere with her and sits off alone reading. It's comical at this point and I often joke with her that I'm going to get her a t-shirt that says "CAUTION: Unsocialized Homeschooler". She doesn't even crack a smile.
Once, when teaching Sunday school class, I had a child enlighten the class as to why their parents were getting a divorce. It started with "Mom said Dad..." and ended with me beginning to sing "Jesus Loves Me" in a loud voice as a distraction. I went home and told Lee that we had to make sure that our kids never did things like that because that was just not okay.
Imagine our shock when, after one of our children offered a prayer request during a bible study for young children, we began getting many phone calls from parents (who were mostly chuckling) asking if we would like to come and explain to their kids what a vasectomy was.
Finally, after almost 14 years of parenting I do as Justin Bieber suggests and never say never.