The other night, after switching out a load of laundry, I wandered into the kids’ play room downstairs. It’s a small room in our small house, and it has their toys on two shelving units, the tv, wii and a guest bed. There’s a chair and a dresser, and a small wooden kitchen. There’s room to play blocks on the floor, or sit on the bed and watch tv. It serves us well, and I’m grateful for the space.
But when I stuck my head in that evening, I was aghast as the mess. Every toy was in a cacophonous pile, and there were plates, cups and food wrappers mixed in all over the floor. The price for quiet I’d been enjoying much of the day was clear. With some sharpness in my voice, I called them down and told them to get busy cleaning this mess up. Joining them on my knees amid the mess, I started getting madder and madder. Jeffrey brought me a trash sack at my sharp request, and I found my voice rising as I picked up more of the crap on the floor. You’ve been there, right?
When I lifted a bin and saw my doll beds from when I was a little girl broken into pieces, I burst into tears and started yelling. Bean sheepishly said he’d fallen on them when jumping on the bed, and covered them up so I wouldn’t be mad. Too late, buddy. Bean ran and hid, and Abby covered her head with a blanket. I was really, really mad.
I swore. And I yelled.
Bean and Abby both ran upstairs, but Jeffrey stood up and stared at me. His eyes filled with tears, his face screwed up, his whole body tense and defensive- he looked at me and with an emotion-filled voice, said “No! I’m going upstairs mom. You’re being mean, and I don’t have to stay here if you’re yelling or if you swear. I don’t have to listen to you!”
He turned around and stomped up the stairs, crying, as I sat amid the chaos and trash, clutching my broken doll bed. Silence. Wretched, soul-tearing silence… followed by heaving, hot, burning tears of shame and regret.
He was right. In every way. He was right. And he had the courage to stand up for what he knew was right, in spite of how hard it was, and in spite of his crazy mama, and in spite of not knowing what would happen to him. He stood, and he defended himself. I sat in the quiet for a few minutes, stunned and shamed at my own behavior, and incredibly proud of him.
Time for me to eat a big heaping pile of humble pie.
I climbed the stairs, and knocked on his science-poster covered door he had slammed indignantly. “Jeffrey, will you please come out and talk to me?”
We sat down together, and I apologized. I told him that he was right, and that I had been terribly wrong to yell and swear, and that just because I was the Mom, it didn’t mean I was always right. I told him that one of the secrets of being a parent is that we don’t always know what we’re doing and that I was very, very proud of him for being brave enough to stand up for himself.
We both cried, and he leaned heavily against me and exhaled. I wrapped my arms around his growing shoulders and thanked God, again, for this boy, and for the mercy and power of forgiveness.