Tuesday, August 16, 2011

"Be Ye Kind One to Another"

"Get over here!  No, you don't need that!  Leave him alone; give him some breathing room!"

These are a few of the phrases I heard from the mother of a toddler and preschooler this morning.  Gracie and I were waiting to get her hearing tested (The state of Tennessee requires that we have her hearing tested every six months until she turns three as a preventative measure since there is a "family history" of hearing impairment.).

This morning did not start off very well for me.  First of all, I couldn't get to sleep until about 3:30 in the morning, so I only got about 3 hours of sleep.  I needed to be up-and-at-'em by 7 so that we could be there for our 8:30 check-in.  I woke up at 7:12, stumbling and with a headache.  I hurriedly got Grace up, gave her some milk and leftover hashbrowns from Chick-Fil-A (you know you have days like that, too!), put her on my bed (one of her fun places to be), jumped in the shower, got dressed, got her dressed, and headed out the door, only to find that I didn't have my keys.  They were not on the key hook, not in my purse, and not in the car.  I figured, "Well, I can lock the door from the inside, go out the garage door, and close the garage door from the car."  I put the baby in the car, went back in the house, did another lightning-fast search for my keys, and found them on the table buried in stuff.

As I was going back to the car, I remembered that even though the hospital where the testing takes place is less than 15 minutes away, they are doing serious road construction and traffic is likely to be tied up.  I checked Memphis Traffic on my phone:  sure enough, yellow and red highlights on the map.  So I had to do a detour.  I arrived at the parking garage on time, but the path to the check-in place (PD's PERCH - it stands for something cute, and the doorway is decorated like an owl's home) is a convoluted route where I have to take the elevator down, go across the street, enter in on the first floor which is actually the second floor of the building, go down a long walkway, take an elevator down, walk down the long walkway under the original walkway (If I did not have Gracie in a stroller, I could have simply walked down the steps.), and finally enter into PD's PERCH.  So, I was a little late for my check-in.  My actual appointment was not until 9:00, so at least we were on time for that!

The PERCH has a nice little area with toys for children to enjoy while they are waiting.  A mother and her two-year-old son were there.  He was playing with the count-the-colored beads thing.  I let Gracie out of her prison stroller, and she headed for the little kitchen.  She seemed to really like the kitchen, helping to cement my resolve to get her one for Christmas this year.

Another mother and her two children, a toddler and a preschooler, came back to the waiting area after having talked to the check-in lady.  She was somewhat young, probably still in her 20's, very highly likely a single parent.  Her two little girls (I'm pretty sure both were girls.) were quiet, not unruly at all.  I had noticed that the little kitchen only had one pot, so I went in search for more dishes.  I found a bin on top of a cabinet and rummaged through it, finding a couple of little bowls and a lid for the pot.  When I turned around, the little toddler was behind me, so I gave her the bowls, and then the pot lid, and then a little blue figure of some unidentifiable critter, saying, "Do you want this?  Oh, do you want this, too?  Here, you can have this, also.  There you go!"  Gracie was occupied and not really wanting anything at the moment.  The child's mother said, "No!  You don't need any more!"  I decided I'd better leave her alone, went to sit down at one of the little chairs and talked with Gracie as she was playing.  When she came over to the table where the bead thing was, I said, "Let's count!  1, 2, 3...."  The preschool girl chimed in counting, so I praised her, "Oh, you can count!  Great job!"  The little toddler had found another little boy and was tagging along after him.  His mother yelled at her, "Get over here!  Leave him alone!  Move back!  Give him some breathing room!"  That continued the whole time we were there, and she added such phrases as, "Yeah, you need your hearing tested."  It made for an awkward time.

I always wonder what people are thinking when they talk to their children.  Do they really think that being mean is going to help train them?  If the child does have a hearing impairment, doesn't that warrant a little more understanding and patience?  The Bible says in Proverbs 31:26 about the virtuous woman, "She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness."

In the young woman's defense, she most likely,
a) was nervous about the test and perhaps was a little self-conscious about it
b) did not have a good pattern in her home life to follow
c) had not been taught good child-rearing principles
d) feels self-conscious about her parenting skills and wants to try to prove that she is trying to make her kids behave

Not that I've "arrived" in the field of mothering -- far from it! -- I have much to learn and areas in which to grow.  Observing this mother and her children does give me a kind of pop quiz in my own life.  Am I careful to speak kindly to Gracie?  When she does need correcting, do I do it lovingly and with purpose?  Do I micro-manage every little move she makes or do I simply let her find her way and guide her when she either misbehaves, is bothering another, or is about to bring harm to herself?

I also wonder, "How can I help these mothers whom I see in public who are struggling to maintain control of their children?"  To be honest, there's not a whole lot I can do except teach by example ("That they may teach the young women .... to love their children." Titus 2:4), invite them to church ("Go out .... and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled." Luke 14:23), and be kind and courteous to them.  One of my teachers at Hyles-Anderson College, Mrs. Frieda Cowling, used to say often, "Unsolicited advice is seldom heeded and never appreciated!"  It would not be wise to go up to them and start giving child-rearing tips!  Especially if you want to get them to come visit your church.

Mrs. Cowling has a lot of wisdom.  I have kept my notes from her class "How to Rear Children," and have read her books on childrearing (Recipes for Rearing Children and Rearing Kids with Character).  If there is interest (let me know), I can share some of the things I have learned from her.

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