Several years ago I was 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 said loud enough for me to hear.”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 sheepishly bowed his head in silence 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 and bragging about it? I heard what he did to your poor cat! Not only that, but he is laughing about it with 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. Did you know he stuck…”
And the rant continued.
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 that my child had been caught doing something wrong. In the past, I would have questioned my child in front of the other adult and made sure that he had offered up an adequate apology.
Not this time.
This time I was more concerned about my relationship with my son rather than whether or not I looked like a “good” mom who had her kid under control.
I had finally unraveled the truth from the lie.
TRUTH: What my child does is not necessarily a reflection of me.
LIE: If my child does something bad/wrong, there must be something wrong with my parenting.
How many times do we react to something that another adult tells us about our child because we believe the lie. Do we continue the judgment without giving our child an opportunity to share his side of the story? Do we sometimes assume that the other adult is right–after all they’re an adult? But can their perspective be skewed based on their kid’s personality or their family’s determination of acceptable behavior?
“Lord, help me to take a deep breath and walk humbly with you in this situation.” I muttered under my breath as I faced that mom.
This time I was more prepared to salvage the relationship with my son rather than prove anything. I also wanted this mom to not be offended by my reaction.
“Jane, thanks for taking the kids to the youth event yesterday. I know that junior high boys can be difficult at times. Thanks too for being concerned for my son. He and I will be talking about it.”
No blubbering about how difficult it is to deal with junior-high boys.
No over-the-top apology.
No embarrassment that my son was now on her radar and I might be considered one of those parents.
No chastisement of my son in front of her.
No questioning his side of the story.
Just, the end.
Quickly, I swept my son out of the woman’s sight with arms around his back. When we were out of sight I laughingly asked 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 it. 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 that mom.
Thankfully, 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.
As I suspected, that mom’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.”
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 25 years ago!
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 her 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!
Remember, our kid’s behavior is not always about us. When we are confronted by our child’s misbehavior our first inclination might be to “prove” that we are good parents by giving other parents what they want. However, 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. Be sure to find the humor in the situation as well.
“Let go…and let God”,