“He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, And he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city.” Proverbs 16:32 NASB
Was there a big arrow above my head pointing down at me… Or was it just my little guy taking a tantrum that got your attention?
Um… Yeah, that would be me on this particular day…
…The mom who wants to run out of the store, but can’t because….um, yeah…I haven’t finished paying for my groceries yet.
So, yes, here I stand under the BIG.RED.ARROW.
Yes, beautiful bystanders, please watch me as I melt on the inside out of pure embarrassment.
(Okay, maybe the attention I’m getting at the moment from cashiers and nearby shoppers isn’t really “that bad”. But who wants negative attention coming their way even if it is small?)
I’m not sure what the people whose attention I do have are thinking, but… please don’t take my somewhat calmer approach in the situation to mean I’m a passive parent. I’m actually currently on the Potter’s wheel being molded in moments such as this.
You see….For me as a mom “acting out” simply to show everyone else that I “do parent” my child just doesn’t do much to fix the problem at hand…both in him (his fussiness)…and in me (my pride).
And I guess it’s just that like the Bible verse above says, me learning to remain calm myself- although maybe appearing passive to another person- is more important in this moment than letting my emotions rule in an uncontrolled, reactionary way…just to try to “prove” myself to others.
So here I am…waiting…but, trust me, I am trying to stop him from fussing.
Yes, I’m reminding him that the “people” around us want him to be “quiet” (something he understands). And yes, there might have even be the suggestion of a consequence when we get home whispered to him. (That’s actually a difficult strategy to use, though, when you have a two year old who understands “now”, but may not fully understand later why he’s being punished after everything’s calmed down. A long explanation….I know. But I know you toddler moms understand. Fist bump!!!)
If you know me on a personal level, though, you’d know I don’t allow that behavior at home.
Um…But, you see, we’re in public… And there is no “time out” spot. There is simply no public consequence I can give …
He already ate the free cookie they give to little ones at the bakery! So, I can’t even take that away. Lol. (And even if I did, he’d be crying even more… True story.)
So…..Um… All I can do is give a calm verbal correction. (But for some reason he seems to not be “receiving” it at the moment.)
And…… so…… I……. Choose. to. Remain. Calm…
…Yes, even when he is not.
Oh, I may look passive at the moment, but believe me, I’m not.
Yes, I am continuing my efforts to calm my son. And trust me, I want to hide under a rock or leave the store. I’d love to do anything but continue standing under this Humungous. Red. Blinking. Arrow…. (Oh no! When did it start blinking?!)
Okay, so no, I don’t know what they- the shoppers and cashiers- are thinking… And you know what, I’m thankful that God is beginning to free me more and more from worrying about that too.
Do I want my son to be cute and “perfect” and make “me” look good all of the time? Oh…how my ego loves that… But you know what? He’s still in the important stages of learning how to behave correctly both in public and at home… So, patience with him and myself are both key.
God and I know the work I’m doing at home, and He sees the work that’s going on inside of my heart in this moment as well.
And so, as I now stand holding my son and continue waiting for my cashier….in this moment I have chosen to allow the Lord to keep my emotions from getting out of control and to keep me from “acting out” just to prove my parenting skills to the people around me.
And “Pop!” Hey, look, there are the fruits of Patience and Self Control!
Hm….So, while I was in the midst of a situation I’d rather not endure, God was at work in me?!
Yes, the Lord was busy producing something in my heart that may not have been produced if it wasn’t for a situation like this. And in the process, He’s also freeing me from the need to feel as though I need to “prove myself” to others.
Trust me, I’m not saying that it’s simply all about me in this journey of motherhood…and simply about “me” learning to control my attitudes and responses. Of course, my son will learn to control his emotions as well… With God’s help through prayer, teaching, discipline, and God’s Spirit working in His heart, over time we’ll definitely see him develop those character qualities he needs in his own life as well.
But… Just as my little guy is still learning in this beautiful journey called “life”, it’s situations like this that help me along my own journey to realize that I too am a work in progress.
Although my success on this particular day did not come in the form of getting my son to be completely calm in the grocery store, I did find success nonetheless…and probably in a better way….
Because on this day…I was able to conquer “me”. (And really, there are so many situations in life where the only thing we can control is “ourselves”. So, it’s best that we get some practice, right?)
And as for those big red arrows…? Um… They can actually be good on occasion! Because they provide us with opportunities for developing the Fruit of the Spirit in our lives, as we follow the direction of the Holy Spirit. And they also give us the opportunity to let go of the worry of what others are thinking but instead depend on God for our approval as parents…because He alone truly knows the work we are doing even when others do not see it in the moment.
So, with that being said…. Grocery store meltdowns don’t have to be for both mommy and baby alike. We can instead allow God to use those moments to shape us as moms, helping us grow in more patience, love, and confidence, while we are at the same time teaching our children the proper ways of acting in public.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23 NIV