| || May 17, 2011 |
The Lessons We Teach
T. Suzanne Eller
"You're worthless!" he shouted. "Why didn't you check under your seat?"
"I'm sorry, Dad," the boy said quietly, his face red with embarrassment. "You said we would miss our plane. I left it behind because I was rushing. I apologized, but there's nothing I can do now. What do you want me to say?"
"Stop shouting at me!" the father screamed.
I felt trapped in the tram. A teen stood, angry and quiet while a father raged. What could have happened that made this father so mad?
Those of us who were witnesses to this scene looked away, or wished that the doors would open so we could get away. I wanted to say something, and maybe I should have. I was afraid I would only make it worse, but my heart hurt as I observed this scene.
The teen had left a hat and sunglasses under the seat. Maybe they were valuable. Maybe the dad's nerves were frayed because of a missed connection, or circumstances that I didn't understand. But all I could see was a relationship, something of great value, unraveling over a hat and sunglasses.
It's not fun when a child is irresponsible, or when you have to pay for items only to have a child lose them. But I wonder if the father was missing a real opportunity to teach his son a lesson? Not to show him that he was lazy or irresponsible, but a lesson in what to do when you make a mistake.
The boy could simply replace the items with his own money, or perhaps do a few extra chores when they got home. But it became personal instead with words like "you're worthless" that mark the heart of a child.
And the lessons that were taught? How to lose control. How to shout unkind words. Saying one thing while you do another. The lesson that if you mess up and you apologize, it's not enough. That you are worthless compared to the loss of a material item. Parenting is hard, especially in stressful situations. All of us have experienced that moment when we lost it, and regretted it deeply. I know that I have.
But how can we learn from it? Will we step back and reevaluate our response and actions, or lash out and mark our children with words and actions that we can't take back? Will we teach them out of anger, or pause and ask God for help to show them how to meet life's challenges head on with consistency and calm?
What lessons will we teach?
I know I could relate to this post, especially in my busyness of raising 4 kids, with a husband who worked full time while working on his master's degree. Those were stressful times for me. I bet you might be in that same season of life. Let's remember the lessons we teach are taught when we least expect them.
Until next time,