I remember it well. My oldest, Hayden, had just finished a middle school basketball game. Let me rephrase that, my son had just finished sitting the bench for nearly a full four quarters. His coach called him out on the court with less than a minute on the clock. For the record, we weren’t terribly behind or way ahead, destroying the theory that just maybe he wanted to make sure my kid didn’t jeopardize the game’s outcome.
I was already a little hot, but what played out in the next thirty seconds burned the stub of the fuse I had left. A time-out buzz drew my attention toward our team’s bench. The coach was waving his hand to Hayden to get out on the court. As far as I could tell there were no words as to direct Hayden to who he would be subbing in for.
Hayden ran out, ready to position himself for some good defense when a fellow teammate (who was a starter) pointed to himself as if to say, Are you coming in for me? Hayden shrugged, unsure.
As the starter trotted to the bench, the coach started shaking his head no, a bit violently, whilst yelling at Hayden, “You’re stupid. Get off the court.” So, a mere five seconds after being sent out, without playing a single play, Hayden was back on the bench with no idea what had just happened.
I was livid. I pursed my lips until my husband Jason, and the two girls and I got into the car. And then fury flew from my lips; sharp words shot out like flaming arrows. I’ve always secretly patted myself on the back for never cussing. I don’t think I did that day, but I honestly can’t remember what all I said.
All I remember is the impromptu, responsive chant that came from our four year old Rylie in the backseat,
“Ok guys, on the count of three”, she demanded, “everybody say it with me,
Let’s ruin coach’s life.
Let’s ruin coach’s life.”
And then came silence. Guilt and helplessness swept over me as I realized the impossibility of cleaning up hot spilled words; words that had drew equally ill speech out of my pre-k-er.
Our kids don’t always do what we say (“Clean your room.”). Nor do they what we do (Start the dishwasher when it’s full). But when it comes to our weakest character traits, say some sass, sarcasm, insecurity, or a bit of fury, our kids can emulate us with embarrassing accuracy.
I mean it doesn’t feel like they’re listening all that well when we tell them how to complete that math problem, or to go easy on the eye shadow, but somehow when it comes to
How we respond to circumstances
How we respond to others
Just like I was noticing how my mom could always get my dad to stop for fried chicken on the way back home from my grandmas, even though she claimed not to be hungry every time we left. (I have her power of persuasion.) It’s funny, for all the effort my mom put towards trying to entice me to cross stitch like her and dust the shelves like she showed me, I was a lost cause.
Our unintentional example proves to be much more powerful than the instructions and modeling we deliberately show our children.
How do we react to a bill we shouldn’t have gotten?
To a rude cashier?
When our kid drops a glass full of milk and the glass shatters on the floor?
How do we respond to the elderly man whose car didn’t budge for the entirety of the green light?
How in control of our emotions are we when that teacher has berated or humiliated our kid,... again!
How do we express frustration toward our kid’s dad? Do we let him have it? Do we give him the cold shoulder?
What about our kid’s friend that hasn’t proven to be that loyal or rule following? Do our kids find that we see their friend (or even their enemy) as “The gossip, The jerk, The Drama Queen, The Queen Bee, The rebel or The liar”? Are our communication and reactions both truthful AND gracious?
The message we don’t intend to send, the one that comes out in a weak moment or when we think nobody’s watching? That becomes our billboard.
Our kids have the best view of our least favorite habits and impulses. The good news is that our canvas can be used to paint the need for grace and a filling of the Spirit.
It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life. John 6:63