I’m going to be brutally honest with you…I’m not sure I have always been the most compassionate mother of all time, or even of any time. When my kids were little – and I have three – I mastered a course in How Not to Hear Your Children’s Voices. It was included in a much bigger educational catalog that I completed as part of the PhD I received in the Life of a Working Mother. Some of the prerequisites for my particular degree include:
My children became aware of my newly developed skills, and after they had yelled, “MOM!”, in my face for ten minutes and I had successfully ignored them, they began to call me, “Tricia”.
That is my name, yes…I am aware of that.
But, my own children are not to call me by my first name. This practice perturbed me greatly, and they knew it. It would, however, get my attention.
The point is compassion. Besides the fact that I have been known to laugh at them when they hurt themselves – oh come on, sometimes it’s funny – probably my least compassionate moment as a mother came when my youngest child, Autumn, was only 5 years old.
****Warning! Some details may be too real/gross for some people.
She was sick at her stomach one evening, and didn’t quite make it to the bathroom before things began to go south. By the time my other kids had yelled me out of my trance, she was coming out of the bathroom when I reached the door. After I quickly assessed her, I sent her off to her room where she was to wait for me until I cleaned things up. I had planned the normal routine a parent follows when a child has tummy troubles: cold washcloth, a little water, etc. Even though I had been grading papers and doing things to prepare for the next school day for the kids and myself (I taught high school history), I quickly switched gears when called into battle. That is until I saw the melee that was before me. Now, I’m not talking about vomit. Who cares about vomit? Mothers deal with vomit and poop and everything else. We’re basically those guys who come clean up at crime scenes but don’t get paid for it. But this was different. The whole mess was large unchewed chunks of food. Entire chunks of pineapple just to give you an idea. This just made me mad. All compassion disappeared. I could not believe what I was seeing. As I was cleaning, I was yelling at her!
“No wonder you’re sick. None of this food has even been chewed. This is ridiculous. If you ever do anything like this again, YOU are going to clean it up yourself. I don’t even feel sorry for you. How could you even swallow this crap?”
Probably not my finest moment. Because of my own raising, I don’t have the response to medical/health situations many parents do. My father was a doctor in a small town, and we saw a lot of things most kids don’t see. I never got too excited over this kind of stuff, and as a mother, my response wasn’t any different.
I had two older brothers and a younger sister, and besides what we saw in my dad’s clinic, we were always getting hurt somehow. My parents always handled it very calmly; like it was no big deal.
I very clearly remember when I was in lower elementary school there was a boy in my class that would always make such a big deal over any little thing that happened to him. If he fell and scraped his knee he would wail and, seemed to me, act like he was dying. I didn’t really know what to make of his behavior, my brothers didn’t act like that, but it stuck out to me. I thought maybe this was how you were supposed to act. So, the next time I hurt myself at home I decided to really ham it up – like the boy at school.
I fell and my mother was attending me. I just kept crying, which I really didn’t need to cry at all but I was testing this new behavior. I got louder and really began to make a show. My mom stopped taking care of me, looked at me and said, “What is the matter with you? That is ridiculous!” She was right. It was ridiculous. I shut up immediately and never acted like that again.
Perhaps some of these things had an effect on how I handled my own children’s issues.
To help me remain sane in the craziness of our lives at the time, I learned to block my kids out – as most parents do at some point.
But now, they are all three gone. They all have jobs and their own places to live. I look back on those days, some when I had little patience and far less compassion. The days when I didn’t put God before coffee, when I didn’t even understand what that meant. I regret the time I could have spent with them that I didn’t. I regret the time they seemed to just bother me more than anything else. I regret that I wasn’t nicer at times when I could have been. I regret that I didn’t know then what I know now. But more than anything else…I regret that I can’t load them up in the mini-van and drive them to church every Sunday. I can’t show them every day how Jesus has changed me, and what wonderful things He can do for them. I can’t help them understand the great power of the Holy Spirit that is inside them every day. I can’t live my life again and be the living testimony to God’s divine grace for my children that I should have been in the first place.
Train up a child in the way he should go: And when he is old, he will not depart from it, (Proverbs 22:6).
I find great comfort in this verse. I pray all my children will one day live to serve God, and truly understand how blessed their lives will be when they put Him above all else. I pray that for your children too.
To Christian parents, especially those with young children, never miss an opportunity to let Jesus shine through you. The greatest gift you can give your children is Jesus. Tell them about Him. Immerse their lives in Him. Let them see Him in you.
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