In another one of our Wordy Wednesdays, I’m sharing a story first published November 25, 2008 on One Generation to Another. No one said parenting would be easy, but it is often the most innocuous situations that prove to be the most challenging. In this story a lesson was learned by both my son and myself. I hope you enjoy!
Let me set the stage… late afternoon, a Saturday in December, a snowstorm…no, a slush storm… and (insert ominous music here)… THE MALL.
The principle characters…
me: an extremely exhausted mom
boy: my 9 year old son that just finished up his Christmas shopping.
The plot… after an exhausting but productive shopping spree, mother and son battle the elements and make what must be a four mile trek out to their car. It seems for the holidays The Mall annexed property in the next county to accommodate the hordes of shoppers. Having procured the WORST possible parking spot in the whole lot, tired mom sits in her seat and starts the car. She kicks the heat up all the way hoping to restore the feeling in her frozen toes before making the drive home, when 9 year old son in backseat says, “Uh oh, Mom. There’s a problem.” Nothing good can come of this! She begins praying for something simple like frostbitten fingers or a frozen seat belt buckle. But alas, something far worse! When looking at a receipt The Boy notices that the Hallmark shop accidentally forgot to charge him for a $1.95 Troll he bought for his sister.
The conflict… 9 year old son wishes to return to the Mall to rectify the situation. Near crazed mom wants to drive away fast and never look back! What to do?
At this point two axioms wrestle in the mother’s thoughts. First, “Actions speak louder than words”, and second, “Do as I say, not as I do”. This is the type of moral quandary we face everyday as parents. We wish to teach our children to do the right thing…to be honest, to be fair, to take turns, to be compassionate, and to live by the “Golden Rule”. Trouble is, as time goes by, rationalization has infiltrated our own personal values and our actions are often in direct conflict with the lessons we wish to instill in our own children. Mom’s internal value system can easily identify the absurdity of tromping through the snow yet again for a measly $2.00. She can rationalize that someone, somewhere this week probably overcharged her by $2.00 so, in the long run, it all evens out. When faced with the Arctic conditions, distraught mom wonders if it isn’t time the child learned the nuances of honesty.
But there he sits, receipt in hand, with his integrity still intact. So, going against every survival instinct the mother possess, she turns, looks at the imploring eyes of her 9 year old son and says as enthusiastically as she possibly can, “Glad you caught that. Okay, let’s go!” And back they tromp…through what has now escalated into a full fledged blizzard, to right a wrong. The salesgirl at the counter is not impressed. Her manager is standing behind her frowning. She’ll undoubtedly be reamed later for her carelessness. Plus, the salesgirl is clueless as to how to fix this situation. Increasingly annoyed manager asks her to step aside as she takes over the transaction. The line behind them is getting ugly. Mom can feel their stares boring through her skull. No one is applauding her actions. No one is congratulating the boy for his profound honesty.
But, as Mom bundles up yet again to make their way back out to the car, SHE is proud; proud of her son, and yes, proud of herself. Sure, someday the son will start making his own rationalizations, but not on her watch. As long as she has anything to do with it she will encourage his moral behavior. She will also humbly learn from it!
Our children need us to be the people we hope they become. Although daunting at times, and near impossible at others, it is the gauntlet that challenges us to be our best!