He was squatting down at the edge of the playground, rummaging through some dead leaves that looked like ornate treasures to him. I watched from a distance, as he inspected each one, turning them over in his sweet little hands, until he found the perfect one, and then he’d tuck it away safely in the “trunk” of his little radio flyer tricycle. I love watching him play so independently and would give just about anything to be able to hear his thoughts as he focuses so intently on the task at hand.
This particular day, there were lots of kids at the park and so although I typically make a conscious effort not to be a “helicopter parent,” I kept a close eye on my free-spirited boy. He abruptly stood up, off to conquer his next mission, when I saw another little boy, about his same size, come up to him and get very close to his face. The little boy had an unnerving aggressiveness about him – much more than that of a typical rough-and-tough toddler – and was holding a stick in his hand with his knuckles clenched tightly around it.
I couldn’t hear what the little boy was saying but I could tell from Landon’s wide eyes and upper lip that he was caught totally off guard and a little afraid, so I casually walked over and put my hand on his shoulder, saying, “come on bud, we don’t get too close to people’s faces, do we?”
If another child does something that I’m uncomfortable with, I don’t feel right about reprimanding them, unless I absolutely have to (because I just feel that it’s their mama’s job), so I always use the passive aggressive technique of casually reminding Landon that the behavior is not acceptable. Whatever works, right? #momlife
A few moments later, Landon was happily playing on the jungle gym and was perched at the top of the slide, just getting ready to sit down and slip to the bottom, when my mama heart skipped a beat. That same little boy came up behind him and shoved him, face first. Thankfully, Landon caught himself, but before he could pull himself up, that little boy started kicking him! In my head, I could hear Madea saying, “oh HAIL naw!” but I quickly stepped in with some hurried “stop! keep your hands and feet to yourself!” advice, and we left the park, with the little boy’s mother sitting on a park bench, completely consumed with her cell phone. Go figure.
I try to use incidents like this as teachable moments, but no one has ever truly been mean to my little boy before, so I was a little unsure how to handle it. I know it’s the first of many times this will happen, and that each time someone hurts your children, a mama’s heart aches. So, on the way home, we had a conversation about how that little boy wasn’t kind and how we need to always treat others with kindness and respect and I just left it at that, although what I really wanted to do was go back to that park, find that little boy, wear him out, and then give his mother a piece of my mind…
Now, I know everyone talks about their kids teaching them things and there have definitely been little things in the last (almost) three years that Landon has said or done that have taught me so much. But, the next morning, while making breakfast and sipping steaming hot coffee with morning light pouring through the window, my boy said something I’ll remember forever.
I was standing with my back to him in the kitchen, wearing my favorite polka dot robe with my unbrushed hair in a sloppy bun on top of my head, when he brought it up again.
Mama, that boy at the park… he was not kind.
– Yeah… you’re right honey, he wasn’t.
He pushed me down.
-I know. And you know what he needed? He needed his Mama to wear him out…
Landon just looked at me as I rambled on about how if he had a good old fashioned whooping, he would know better….
-Oh, honey… Mommy’s just upset. You know what that little boy needed? He just needs Jesus.
… and that’s when he said it, with blue eyes full of innocence in a voice I’ll never forget.
But, I need Jesus too, Mama.
Cue the waterworks!
How often do we look at someone, as adults, and think to ourselves how they need fixing? How often do we weigh our own sins against the sins of others, wrongly using those around us as the standard for behavior instead of Scripture? How often do we sit in church, thinking to ourselves how badly so-and-so needs to hear the Pastor’s sermon, instead of asking Jesus how we can apply it to our own lives? How often do we focus on the speck in our neighbor’s eye, while ignoring the log in our own?
I’m so guilty of this, so many times. And although I know that I need Jesus, too, it’s so easy for me to focus on those I come in contact with, especially when they treat me or my loved ones in a way that feels disrespectful.
I’m so thankful that Jesus used this little experience at the park to remind me of one very simple truth:
“On our worst days, we’re never outside of the reach of His grace and on our best days, we’re never outside the need of His grace.”
-Jerry Bridges, author of The Pursuit of Holiness, The Discipline of Grace, etc.