These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.Deuteronomy 6:6-7
I couldn’t believe it. I was so embarrassed.
There I was sitting at a bench, scrolling through my phone, as my boys played in the church playground. Yes, I am one of those moms who is at times on their phone while at the park with her kids. I heard laughter and squeals of delight. Every so often I looked up and smiled as I watched them chase and tackle, push and shove, race and play. I heard a crash and looked up to witness my youngest boy push over a ride-on toy car. It landed with a crash. I called to him and told him cars were not for pushing down and reminded him to be gentle with the toys. A lady walked up to us. She said to me, ” I have had to talk to them several times!”
“Really”, I said. “Why is that?”
She proceeded to inform me that they had been playing really rough and nearly hurt her son who had been next to them. She then told me that my older son had reached out his hand to ‘swat’ her daughter. My son looked at me and told me that he was just trying to give her a boost on the tire swing she was on. She looked to him then to me, eyes wide in disbelief, shaking her head she told me that her kids were not safe around mine.
“My boys do enjoy rough housing.” I said, slowly. “And they are far from perfect but I have a hard time believing that they would deliberately try to hurt your children.”
“I was there,” she said to me.
I was bristling and shaking. Her tone was angry, judging and condemning.
“That is a pretty harsh accusation. I wish you had brought this to my attention,” I said. Through clenched teeth and inspite of my feelings I commanded my boys to apologize to her and her daughter.
“Go up to her and look her in the eyes when you speak to her!” I said. And they obeyed.
They had watched the exchange intently and in silence.
I told the boys we are leaving.
I turned and faced her again.
“My boys are not perfect and neither am I. But we are not intentionally destructive with property or deliberately hurtful to others around us. I am not making excuses for their behavior. They do engage in rough play. As for my not being right where they were playing, I no longer feel the need to be on top of them as they play.”
She said, “I get it. They are older and you don’t need to follow them around. I can tell you are a good mom by the way you had them apologize.”
I said nothing. My boys and I turned to leave.
I was mad. At myself, at her, at my kids.
They didn’t intentionally set out to do harm. But that isn’t enough to satisfy the greatest commandment is it? The second part of the commandment, to love our neighbor as ourselves (Mark 12:31).
When it comes to this commandment it isn’t merely enough to do no harm. We have to actively show love – in this particular case by being considerate of others in the way we interact around them and protect them from unintentional harm that could result from our play.
I have heard love described as a commitment to act in the best interest of another person. To love someone is to take an action that is loving toward them. In this case, my two could have shown love by being aware and honoring of the people and property around them and by taking measures to safeguard them from their interaction with each other. Being loving in this instance would have been not rough-housing too close to the other kids and asking permission before attempting to push another person on a swing.
I asked questions (adopted from material from the National Center for Biblical Parenting ) of both my boys to make sure they understood what had just taken place.
“What did you do that was wrong?”
“Why was it wrong?”
“What will you do differently next time?”
I explained the concept of love, honor, kindness and boundaries and we discussed biblical stewardship. Taking care of toys and other property that has been privileged and or entrusted to us.
My older son suggested it was a bad idea to go to the park that day because of what happened. I responded that the park isn’t the problem. The problem was in the choices they made.
“But if we hadn’t come this wouldn’t have happened,” he said.
And it is for this very reason that I praise the Lord that we did go and this happened and that it presented an opportunity to teach them about love and consideration for others around us, kindness and biblical stewardship of property and gifts.
Help me to see their sin behaviors as opportunities for teaching Your truth. Give me grace, wisdom and humility so I can seize the moment as it presents its itself.