Parenting a Seven Year Old and the Joy of Resurrection

April 10, 2007

I took my son through a drive through on the way to a movie the other day, because “Poppa I’m STARVING and I CANT WAIT for ANYTHING to EAT or I’LL JUST DIE.”

So we went to the Golden Arches and got “as MANY chicken nuggets as they HAVE.  I am SOOOO hungry!”

When we got out of the car, I reminded him to get all of his trash so that car wouldn’t be dirty.  “But POPPA, I can’t carry all that stuff.”  His hands were completely empty.  I said, “Just do the best you can, I’m sure you will manage.”  He came out empty handed.

I noticed the next morning that his cup– full of lemonade from the night before– was still sitting there in the mini-van cup holder in the back seat.

I couldn’t bring it in because MY hands were full this time.

I forgot about it for a few days.

I just went grocery shopping, and found it again.  I pulled it out, and the paper cup which previously had held the lemonade tightly within its confines, had started to disintegrate.  The lemonade had now leaked into the cup holder below.

Getting angry, I removed the cup and started stomping back inside to get something to clean it up (my son wasn’t home, or my immediate response probably would have been to ask him to help).

I started thinking, “I wish he had done what I asked him to do.”

Then I realized, that is my sin.

That is not my theology.

God’s response, when we made a mess of the whole crucifixion, was not “I wish they had done what I asked them to do.”  It was not judgment nor anger nor destruction.  God’s response was to clean up the mess and restore things to their rightful order.

As I calmed myself down, trying to adjust my parenting style to my theology of love that is more powerful than judgment, I cleaned the car, thinking, “the resurrection is a really amazing thing.”  My responsibility to my kids isn’t to make them feel bad when they aren’t perfect.  It is to gently guide them into being loving, compassionate, responsible adults.  I do that by modeling the behavior I want to instill, not by harsh and punitive declarations of rules and responsibilities.

Sure, there is a time for discipline and boundaries.  But those times are far outweighed by the times for love, joy, charity, hope, compassion, and peace.  If we allow the judgments– the rules and the regulations– to overcome the intent of those rules and regulations; namely to promote the love of God and neighbor as self, then what’s the point?

The van is clean now, and I’m much calmer.  And believe me, my son has plenty more opportunities to learn about responsibility!  His room is a mess.

I’m sure glad Lent is over, too!

j

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