Tuesday, July 8, 2014

In which a Child Learns Not to Put Things in His Mouth

“Will we get a prize today?” A small hand threaded into mine.

My six children and I stood at the desk in the library, waiting for our turn to check in with the summer reading program. I smiled down at the little tow-head. “You’ve read more books this week, so probably. Be sure to thank the librarian.”

When the librarian turned to us, I recited everyone’s names, and she checked her computer log. She pulled from a side counter a storage container with a box of prize choices. “You’ve been reading a lot.” She grinned. “You each get to choose one prize.”

Eager for their reward, my children pushed little hands into the containers, exploring the possibility of a tiny tub of multi-colored fun-doh and wondering if a balloon-powered car would be a better choice.

Slowly, choices were made. Two children wanted fun-doh. One child wasn’t sure. Another child had already put a mouth on the balloon car.

Uh-oh. I knew there was only one option, and I prayed it would go smoothly.

The child-who-shall-remain-unnamed moved to put the balloon car back in the prize bin. “I want fun-doh.”

I held the child’s wrist gently, preventing the replacement of the balloon car. “You put your mouth on the car already,” I told the child, my voice low in the din of the children’s department. “This is your prize. You know you’re not supposed to put your mouth on things. You can’t put it back now.”

The child stared at me, bewilderment morphing to disappointment. A hair-line fracture appeared in my heart.

“But the others have fun-doh.”

“But the car has been in your mouth. It would be yucky to put it back and let someone else take it. No one wants a prize that has had someone else’s mouth on it. Besides, you have one more sibling who, I think, is going to choose the balloon car. You can race.”

Tears sprang to the child’s eyes, and my heart clenched with empathy at his upset. But my course was clear.

I laid my arm around my child’s shoulders and turned the child toward the librarian. “Say thank you.”

A pause for a gulp of air. “Thank you,” the child hiccupped to the librarian. Another splintering continued my heart-break.

I steered the children toward the play area and sat down to face the child. I gathered the child in my arms and wiped tears from the child’s cheeks as my own eyes filled with sympathetic tears. My heart broke completely even as I admired the self-control and acceptance of the consequences of the actions.

I held the child close as I reminded the child that he should keep his hands and mouth off things that aren’t his. The hiccups slowed as I said I love you.

A moment later, the two cars raced along the library floor, all six children cheering them on.

Thank you, Lord, for giving me the strength for another moment.

Parenting isn’t for the faint of heart. J

Have you faced difficult parenting circumstances lately?

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  1. What a fine example of follow through!

    1. Follow through can be the trickiest part of parenting, can't it? Thanks, Lisa. :-)

  2. A wonderful post!! I remember my son doing similar things in the Christian book store where Sunday School prizes were within his reach and he would try them out .. with his mouth.

    1. What is it with children and the desire to put everything in the mouth? Blech! It's a common scenario for parents, though, isn't it? Fun times. :-)

  3. Really. Not ever. I was reminded of this today as my girls struggled during a swimming lesson to keep up with the other swimmers. How many times a day do you think we reach the heights of glory and the depths of sadness with our children. It's tough stuff. Good job, Momma!

    1. You're so right -- highs and lows and everything in between. Exhausting but rewarding. Thanks for commenting and encouraging! :-)

  4. Great job! A lot of kids can't seem to make good decisions and this is a really good example of staying strong and not giving in as a parent. It is hard sometimes, but they do need to learn consequences for their choices.

    1. It's just downright painful sometimes. But it can help if we remind ourselves of the adults our children need to become. Thanks, Debbie! :-)


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