August 6: A Lesson in Grace

Ahh, Clayton... My oldest. He's only 6 but the poor kid looks at least 8, and he's always been treated as such. His sister was born when he was a wee age of 16 months, and I expected him to grow up quick. It wasn't a conscious expectation, just a necessity of survival as a mother of two babies. Even at 16 months though, he was doing things that some two year olds hadn't even considered: opening doors, pushing chairs up to the counter and slicing pears {with a steak knife}, and locating every last spray bottle in the house. And spraying all of them, of course.

He's always been incredibly curious and into everything, and consequently a challenge parenting-wise. How do you direct and train such a curious and innovative mind? He knows when he's disobeying, but he largely does things because he's curious or wants to create something new. He's Curious George, just in boy form. I can't tell you how many "recipes" I've dumped down the drain over the years after he's tried to "cook" something new for breakfast. He also has  trouble controlling his impulses and using his words, but what kid doesn't, really. 

Instead of using his words, though, he's been aggressive with his siblings this summer. I feel like every time I turn around I'm telling him to use his words and apologize. The repetitiveness I don't mind too much, but I do mind when injuries, welts, and bruises occur as a result of the aggression. Today was one of those days.

When several rounds of playing outside by himself, time-outs, and apologies hadn't changed any behaviors, I angrily sent him up to his room to clean. He had de-fluffed his Build-A-Bear all over his room, I kid you not, about 6 months ago, and there's still cotton all over the floor. It hasn't completely been cleaned up or vacuumed since then. It's a painful process to get him to clean his room, so apparently I avoid the whole ordeal. But he was doing it today. First, he pulled the mattresses off the beds and took them apart. Then there was playing instead of cleaning, whining about not wanting to clean, doing everything except cleaning, escaping out the front door and playing outside instead of cleaning, and more not cleaning.

After much too long, he had finally made some progress in the right direction. Most of the big things were picked up off the floor, and I went in with a broom and dustpan to help him finish up. The floor is carpeted, but I needed the broom and dustpan to sweep up the carpet of things-too-large-to-be-vacuumed-up first, before I vacuumed. Like I've mentioned before, I'm "mom of the year." I like to try to live up to the title. So, I'm hot and sweaty and angrily sweeping up cotton fluff, googly eyes, broken crayons, Lego pieces, and Lord knows what else. I vacuum, stare in amazement at a clean, spotless floor, and attempt to reassemble the beds.

Quickly frustrated by the fact that I can't get the parts to fit together correctly, I bark at him to "get in here" and help with the beds. Despite my angry tone, my 6 year old calmly tells me that if you angle the bottom this way, move it over a little now, and gently slide it back that it fits back together quite nicely. "Why don't you try this one, mom," he says in a kind, encouraging voice. I mess with second bed for a few minutes before I get it right, and as he helps me lower it down, he says, "there you go! Just like that. Good job, mom!" Then he proceeds to ascertain the easiest, best way to move the mattresses back on the frame, and "just like that," we are done.

It wasn't until later in the evening when I was at our church prayer meeting that I realized that my 6 year old son was more of an adult this afternoon than I was. Nothing like a good prayer meeting to get some conviction going. Instead of setting an example of calmness and respect, I was angry and snarky. Even in the face of that, he displayed such maturity and grace in return. Leave it to God to use the impulsive, aggressive 6 year old to teach me a lesson on being calm, graceful, and encouraging, huh? As I tucked him into bed this evening I praised him for how he handled that situation and how much I appreciated it, and him! I'm thankful that no matter how many times I fail daily as a mother, wife, friend, or daughter, that God always forgives and always gives me another chance. And I'm thankful for children who do the same.

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.  Proverbs 15:1-3

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.  James 1:18-20