My littles and I were just getting ready to leave church, after they finished their Christmas program practice, when I stopped to talk to a couple of moms. In the background, I heard screaming. Not the kind that indicated that there was an emergency, but the kind that indicated that there was something naughty happening. A fellow mom said, “Not my kid.” I looked around and noticed that two of my children were no longer standing with me. Sure enough, at that moment, two of my boys came walking out the bathroom with big smiles on their faces.
“Umm… Were you guys screaming in the bathroom?” I asked, embarrassed.
After a short pause, the older boy in the duo admitted, “Yes.”
“Why would you be screaming in a bathroom?!” (I suppose that I have often thought of screaming in the bathroom, just to hear the echo.)
“Well, I don’t know,” the older guilty one said. The littler one just looked at the ground.
“You’re in trouble!” I was whispering, but it was not a gentle whisper. “Stand next to me and do not speak!”
The two guilty boys stood next to me, not talking, until I finished my conversation and we walked outside. Once in the van, I was still upset. “There will be a consequence!”
We drove home in silence, and I began to wonder why I was so angry about a seemingly small offense. It was in that moment that I realized why I am often more strict with my children than I may need to be. I realized that, though we don’t have a reality show on TLC, the people in our little world are watching us…and some are waiting for us to fail.
People say things like: “Statistically, with so many children, some of them will get into trouble. Statistically, one will be on drugs…one will get pregnant as a teenager…one will wind up in jail…one will be an alcoholic…one will get divorced…”
In that moment, as I was driving home, I realized that I don’t need to worry about statistics. We have Jesus. Yes, my children may disappoint me. Yes, they may misbehave. They may even scream in the church bathroom. Jesus isn’t ashamed of them when they make mistakes. He gives them grace. He gave me grace, even when I was dead in my sin. Shouldn’t I give my children that same grace?
When we pulled into the driveway, all of my littles ran into the house to tell their dad about their program practice…all of them, except the two guilty bathroom screamers. Not wanting to be a liar, I did give them a consequence. (One thing I have learned is that you never say you’re going to give a correction if you don’t intend to really give it.) The guilty brothers had to clean up their littlest brothers’ bedroom. (They probably would’ve had to clean the bedroom, anyway, but they didn’t know that.) After the bedroom was cleaned, and the consequence was finished, the boys went shopping with their dad. While they were gone, I made a conscious decision that it’s time for me to give my children more grace.
Does this mean that I will allow my children to misbehave? No. It just means that I will have grace when I discipline them. I will stop worrying about what people think. I will stop thinking about the “world’s” statistics. I will focus on Jesus. And I will proudly raise my children up in the way they should go and be confident that, when they grow old, they will not depart from it.