Cornered as we walked into church on Sunday morning, I watched another mom reach out to my junior high son just steps ahead of me. “Not so fast,” she murmured, “we need to talk with your mom.” Not even allowing him to speak, she ushered my 13 year old son over to me. I watched as he bowed his head in shame knowing what was coming next.
“You would not believe what your son did yesterday!” she hissed. “Do you know the kind of things that your son is doing to animals? He’s torturing them…torturing them and then laughing about it to his friends! You need to know that what he is doing is absolutely sick! I heard all about it when he was in my car yesterday. Your poor cat! Did you know that he stuck that poor kitten into a …”
Luckily, this was not my first time encountering one-of-those moms. In the past, I had handled these situations all wrong, frustrated that my child had embarrassed me in front of another adult! Horrified at what they were being accused of, I would make sure to take my child down a notch or two in front of the other mom, allowing her to see that I was a ‘good’ mom who took my parenting role seriously.
Truth be known, and I do hate to admit it, I’ve been one of those moms myself when my kids were younger. You know….sitting there in judgment…wanting to make sure that I played the role of traffic cop well, radar
watching for any offense that I saw as being wrong. “After all”, I reasoned, “if I don’t point out this weakness in a kid to his parents, then it can’t be dealt with. I would want to know if my child did something like this. I need to do the same for other parents.”
Whoa…faulty thinking on my part!!
With time, I had learned the error of my ways. This time, I was more prepared to salvage the relationship with my son rather than prove that I was a good mom…rather than believe that the adult side of the story was right when I knew there were two sides. I had learned through scripture and experience that my son deserved a fair trial.
…And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8b
“Lord, help me to take a deep breath and walk humbly with you in this situation.” I muttered to myself.
After taking our verbal chastisement from Mrs. Gibson, I assured her that I would speak to my son about it and thanked her for her concern. Quickly, I swept my son out of the woman’s sight with arms around his back laughingly asking him, “Are you alright?”
With a sheepish nod, he replied, “Mom, it wasn’t like that at all!
“It’s okay, son, we’ll work through it. I know you well enough that there has to be another side to this story. We’ll talk about it after lunch this afternoon. Don’t worry about Mrs. Gibson. Just go enjoy Sunday school with your friends.”
He gave me a slight smile as I winked at him, assuring him that we’d get through the ordeal with the now dreaded, Mrs. Gibson.
As I expected, Mrs. Gibson’s version was far from what I thought my son was capable of conjuring up on his own.
“Son, so tell me what happened yesterday when you were in the car with Mrs. Gibson.”
As my son rattled off the events of the previous day, the light bulb began to illuminate. Oh my, these weren’t his stories…these were stories his dad had told him about pranks he remembered being played during his college days! I wasn’t sure if I was more upset that my husband had actually shared those stories with our kids or horrified to think that my son might have actually considered doing something similar on his own.
“Son, did you ever do that to our cat?” I ventured.
“Mom, you know how it is with us guys. We sometimes do stupid stuff, and I will admit that one time I stuck her in the old microwave out in the garage. But it wasn’t plugged in! We intended to get her out right away, but you remember, the door got stuck and Dad had to take it apart to get the cat out. I felt horrible! I would never intentionally hurt Duchess!”
“It was the same way, yesterday,” he continued. “Mark, James, and I laughed retelling the story of Duchess, and one thing led to another, and James told us what his dad had done to the dog when it died, and the stories just kept getting more and more exaggerated. Mrs. Gibson thought they were all true and started yelling at us before we had a chance to explain.”
“So she doesn’t know the truth?” I asked, trying to hide the laughter that was welling up inside me.
“I guess not.”
As we put together a plan for him to redeem himself with Mrs. Gibson, I thanked God that I had kept my cool with my son after Mrs. Gibson’s reprimand. My husband and I would have a good laugh about this one tonight behind closed doors. Boys at this age can get themselves in the strangest predicaments!
BOTTOM LINE: Our Kid’s behavior is not about us! We sometimes want to think that it is…but it isn’t. Our first inclination is to “prove” that we are good parents by giving other parents what they want…some sort of chastisement for what they see as a child’s sin. In reality parenting is about helping our children know that we will always believe in their innocence until they are proven guilty. If we listen to both sides, before passing judgment, we have a better chance of building relationship even through the trials of the tween and teen years.
Dare you to ask questions next time a situation appears to incriminate your child, holding your tongue until all sides have spoken.
Learning beside you.
“Let go…and let God”