Wednesday, July 16, 2014

to speak or not to speak...

So here's the scene.

I'm at our local children's museum with my two kids.  We're in this exhibit where my kids are stacking magnetic pieces to one another to form cool and interesting structures.  Only 3 feet away from us is a computer and desk area that teaches kids about architecture-y stuff, and there's a family with their backs turned toward us at that computer.

One of the boys turns around.  I'd guess he's 5 or 6.  He spots Caroline, who thankfully has her head down engrossed in building.  I watch this kid's arm point straight out at her, his jaw drop, and his other hand cover his mouth.  He's obviously in disbelief at what he's seeing.  It's rude to do, especially from 2 feet away, but okay, I get it.  Mama Bear is alert.

Then little boy hastily turns to his brother, still at the computer, and frantically begins poking him on the back as if to say Hurry!  Check out this freak show!  Caroline still doesn't look up, thank God.  Now both boys turn around, and boy #1 AGAIN stretches his arm out pointing.  They are obviously more fascinated and grossed out by my bald daughter than by any exhibit in the entire museum.  And of course, their mother turns around just in the nick of time to see... nothing.  Oblivious to the entire thing.

I'm watching it, as if in slow motion.  Mama Bear suddenly feels the need to attack.  Normally I let reactions slide.  Normally I don't confront.  I know what it's like as a parent to have your kid react poorly to someone out of curiosity, and I know kids have issues.

But this one had obviously crossed the give-the-kid-the-benefit-of-the-doubt line.  This kid did not have any perceivable issues to justify his reaction.  My death stare wasn't working, either.

I've got to say something to his mom.  But what??  "Um, excuse me, but your kid is being a JERK!?" which is all that honestly was coming to my mind in the heat of the moment.  I could feel my intensity level rising as I wrestled with what to do or say.  All I could do was keep staring that kid down.  Can you say STINK. EYE.

And in a flash, they were gone.  Off to the next exhibit, as if nothing had happened.  Caroline looked up at me.  "Mom, look at the house I just built!"

And there I was.  Burned up in a pile of anger.

But really it's sorrow.  At times I hate this for my daughter.

As a mom of an alopecia kid, discerning how to handle moments like those is hard!   Though it's what I feel like doing, lashing out in anger or snapping at some random kid or mother isn't an option.  (Well, I guess it is.... but not a good or mature one, I should say.)  After all, anger and rudeness don't change hearts.  Only love does that.

It's hard to take the "high road" and absorb the injustice of the moment, too!  To keep my mouth shut as I usually do.  Yet I have a Savior who absorbed a whole lot more injustice upon himself than that for my behalf.  And if he could keep his mouth shut during that, I should certainly be able to hold my tongue at some kid's rudeness, too.

On the other end, it's also hard to lovingly call out random strangers and attempt the "teachable moment" approach.  That takes guts.  And nerves of steel.  Yet Jesus wasn't afraid to call out those who needed calling out.  There is most certainly a time for speaking the truth, but of course, always in love.  Perhaps it would have been loving of me in that moment to speak to that kid's mom.  Maybe caring for that kid in the moment would have been showing him the dignity due to all of humanity.

I guess there's more than one "right" way I could've handled it.  The more I think about the situation yesterday, the more I wish I had spoken up this time, both to my daughter's defense (though she didn't even know she needed defending) and for the edification of that kid and family.  Caroline needs to occasionally see me model loving confrontation- she herself will likely need that as a life-long skill.

I wish I would've walked up to the mother, wanting the best for her son and his maturity, and politely said, "Excuse me, but I think you might need to have a talk with your son and how he reacts to children who look different from him."

Tough.  Would've been embarrassing, right?  For both of us moms, no doubt.  I'm cringing right now at the thought.  Even if I had said it with all the love in the world, who knows how it would have been received?!

But I have to remember it's through tough, embarrassing moments that we all grow.  Those moments, as awkward as they are and as much as we want to run from them, provide us with insights and family conversations that would otherwise be missed.  It's through those helpful moments, not in spite of, that we (and our kids) move forward in maturity and compassion for others, instead of remaining in the places we are now.

And the growth isn't just for them.  It's completely challenging and sanctifying for me to learn how to take my anger in these moments and channel it instead into love.  To find words of strength that are also bathed in graciousness.  I know this won't be the last time.  For both of my kids.

God, would you continue to grant me the grace to know when to speak and when not to speak. 
Would you give my children the strength to bear all that will come their way.  
Would you give all of us a deeper love and compassion for those who are not like us.
Help us to see Your image reflected brightly in each person You've created
and help that to make a difference in our words and our lives this day.

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