What a brat. The kid was whiny, hyper, and disobedient. His mom seemed exhausted, shut-down, and used to it.
She and I were both waiting in a small, echoey lobby for play practice to end. Clearly, she was there to pick up her oldest child and I was there to do the same for my youngest.
I watched her ineffectively and un-creatively try to change her young child’s behavior. “Stop,” she would say weakly to his back as he laughed and ran out of her reach.
“You said I could play on your phone!” he whined, looking around the room to see who was watching his performance.
“I told you… it ran out of battery, you can play tomorrow.” Her words were part of one, long, robotic sigh.
“That’s not fair!” He stomped with each word, then flopped on the ground and looked at me, who was caught staring.
There was a time when I would have shot the kid a look, then turned to rant silently to myself about “parents these days”.
But that night, as play practice ran long and that mom was at the end of a short rope, my heart felt my own parenting pains and softened. My mind flashed images of my young days as a mother, and remembered the struggle.
I found myself walking across the room and stepping over her child to get to her. I didn’t have to grit my teeth or talk myself into it… I wanted to. I needed to… for my desires and reactions weren’t the same as they once were. I looked her in the eye said, “Hi. I’m Karen! This time of night is so hard with little ones, isn’t it? But I must brag… my child was a much better stomper than yours!” I laughed and held out my hand.
The corners of her mouth turned upward and relief lifted her posture a bit. She grabbed my hand, held it long, and said, “Oh, yeah? I can’t even imagine that.”
We laughed and chatted about nothing in particular, but the conversation wasn’t the point. I wanted her to know that she is not alone in this war, and the only way we can make it is by lining up shoulder-to-shoulder. Even though our separate battles might look different, solidarity is what keeps us going. And judgement weakens us all.
But I didn’t always feel this way. As a young mom, I was a lone ranger, the Tom Cruise of Motherhood’s Top Gun: a cocky new recruit, determined to forge ahead alone and win life’s battles my way, completely ignoring the fact that I need support. And I made one foolish mistake after another.
That night, with the whines and stomps driven to the background, I hope this one mom who is being made new… encouraged a new recruit to persevere. I hope that she got a taste of “teamwork” so that she’ll learn to seek it out before the enemy is hot on her tail.
As I drove my daughter home that night, I thought of how God has changed me. That night, my first reaction was more loving. My heart was beating a little more in sync with His. His light was breaking through my darkness.
I praised God for the hope that newness brings. He has changed me, He IS changing me, and He’s using it all to bring newness to others.
The song “You Take My Breath Away” kept playing in my head, but I wasn’t thinking at all about Tom Cruise …because times have changed.
And because I am NEW.