A few days ago, my girls and I went outside to take advantage of the sunny, spring-like weather. I started pulling weeds in my side yard while my girls were tinkering around in the driveway. I’ve stopped nagging them to wear shoes at this point, because they end up leaving them strewn around the yard, and when we have to go somewhere, they can’t be found. As I came around to the front, a retired couple from the neighborhood was out walking their dog. My outgoing daughters said Hello, my youngest on her scooter and my oldest on her balance bike. I headed toward the end of my driveway to ensure my girls stayed there and didn’t try to pet the couple’s rather large canine. Rather than exchanging pleasantries, the man started, “I was watching one of them (nodding at my daughters) riding in the driveway almost to the street.” I faltered, unable to come up with a reply. Then, he looked at my girls’ bare feet and barreled ahead, “And no shoes?! Ouch!” With fire in my belly, I replied, “When I was a kid, I never wore shoes in the summer, Man!” (Yes, I ended my sentence with “Man.” I was spitting fire mad!) The woman laughed in passing, either out of embarrassment or truly because she had no idea her husband had belittled me, and he kept walking. I was so angry and insulted. I thought of at least a dozen comeback lines, of course, five hours later. Things like, “Here’s a balloon. Want to fart in it for me?” Or, “Here’s my bowl of Cheerios. Could you pee in them for me?” Or one a little less juvenile and more to the point: “Any other criticisms you want to make on my apparent lack of parenting?” I shouldn’t have let him get to me so much, but dang, it hurt. That morning was particularly rough. We had just gotten back from our weeklong trip to Colorado the day before, so we were all jet-lagged and exhausted. I was weary, and had to get outside for some fresh, sea-level air. That jab at my parenting skills were not at all what I wanted or needed that day. Or really, ever.
Then, I was reading my Bible yesterday and came across this in Proverbs 12 from the Christian Standard Bible version:
16 A fool’s displeasure is known at once, but whoever ignores an insult is sensible.
25 Anxiety in a person’s heart weighs it down, but a good word cheers it up.
26 A righteous person is careful in dealing with his neighbor, but the ways of the wicked lead them astray.
Okay, God. I guess it was good I couldn’t come up with some snarky retort. It wouldn’t have helped the situation or my attitude. It probably would have made me even angrier, and then make me feel bad because I HATE confrontation. Then it would be awkward. Thanks, I guess, for not giving me a quick wit?
I think his words really cut deep because of the insecurity I already feel as a mom of two little ones. Am I reading to them enough? Should I go back into her room and sing one more bedtime song? Did they eat enough vegetables today? Does she know how much I love her, even though she’s making me crazy today? Did I teach them about Jesus today? Have I been a good example of God’s grace and forgiveness? Have they had enough outdoor time and exercise today? I know that I am uniquely qualified to be their mama, because they’re my babies, but knowing that in my head doesn’t quiet those anxious thoughts that plague me like poison ivy. I’m the kind of person that will cling to the one negative comment and utterly forget the countless words of encouragement and praise. Maybe we’re all like that, especially when it comes to what and whom we’ve utterly poured out our hearts into.
Obviously, that man has no idea how I am as a mother. All he knows is what he sees for the three minutes it takes to walk down the sidewalk past my house. He doesn’t know me, my heart or my girls. Is this blog post even worth my time to write? I think it is, because we all have gotten sucker punched in the gut metaphorically or have gotten judged unfairly. Trolls looking for mud to throw abound. But what we do in response to that insult or criticism is more important. Romans 12:9 reads “Let love be without hypocrisy. Detest evil; cling to what is good.” So now, I’m clinging to the good. I know that my girls are loved, protected, and prayed over daily. They love talking to people and are polite (most of the time). They’re brave and strong and have no shortage of tenacity. What am I going to do the next time we’re outside and we see that couple? I’m not interested in another round of confidence degradation, obviously, but we are called to love our neighbors. And to love without hypocrisy. I’ll wave, as I’m sure my girls will too, oblivious to the tension I’ll feel. I’ll pray that God softens my heart toward them. And then my girls and I will continue about our day, playing outside in bare feet.