Parenting is the hardest job in all the world. Without much prayer and the grace of Jesus I really don’t know what I would do! We had an interesting series of events the other day at our house.
Big D who just celebrated his 5th birthday stole something from the grocery store. My wife went to the store with them which is always a difficult thing for her because they act just absolutly crazy at the grocery store. Needless to say she has her hands full with those two. (I know, I know, don’t ask – I have no clue how we’ll handle a third! :) Big D and his sister (who is 2) were running interference for each other at the checkout line and apparently D opened the package of a toy cell phone and stuck it in his pocket while no one was looking. It wasn’t until he and his sister were home and fighting over this toy that we found out. I had just walked in the door from another appointment when they were fighting over the phone.
When asked where he had gotten the phone, D said that he had “found” it at the grocery store. It was soon uncovered that he had knowingly stolen it. When we uncovered this face, he became very scared and started crying saying that he didn’t want the police to come get him.
Now as a parent, I’m feeling all kinds of emotions at this point – anger and disappointment that he would steal, a bit of humor that he thinks the police may show up at any minute, and I guess some guilt about what I may have done wrong as a parent for him to get to this point! :)
I also recognize this as an amazingly rare opportunity to teach him all kinds of moral lessons. Thus I hide my amusement at the situation and assure him that the police are not outside about to beat the door down. I take him and sit him down and I silently pray that the Lord would give me wisdom so I would know what to say. I emphasize that stealing is a sin and have him repeat that stealing is WRONG. I ask him why he stole, and really spend a good long time on the crux of the issue. Then all of a sudden, I am impressed to remind D that no matter what he does wrong, me and his mommy will always love him. I can only say that the Lord gave this to me because I don’t know where it came from. But what a neat opportunity to remind D of our love for him and to show him that we have unconditional love for him and that we don’t love him because of his actions, but because God gave him to us.
After the lecture, we get in the car and immediately drive back to the grocery store. The whole ride there is not a fun ride for either of us. I still have my stern face firmly in place. When we get to the store, I locate the store manager and tell D to explain what had happened (I’d prepped him on what he should say on the ride over). He tells her that he stole a phone, and that he is sorry, and that he has learned that stealing is wrong and he’ll never do it again, and that he would like to pay for the phone. The grocery store manager was a real trooper. At first she too had to work to hold back a smile about the situation, but she got how important this was to me.
So she rings up this plastic phone and that sucker was $3.29! I was shocked at that price because this thing was worse than a typical McDonald’s toy! I told D that this was such a waste! I said, “don’t you know what kind of cool stuff you could get for $3.29? Your daddy wants you to have good things and wants to get all kinds of good things for you – all you have to do is ask me!”
So while I definitely cringe at paying $3.29 for a cheap, plastic, lime green cell phone, when I look at the bigger picture and the opportunity I had to teach my son a moral lesson, that is money well spent and I would do it again in no time flat. One thing that I have heard recently is that as parents we should pray that we catch our children in the act. This has definitely become my prayer as I have now seen first hand the awesome opportunity that can arise from catching my children “in the act”.