Today I took the girls up to the mall to meet some friends and enjoy the air conditioned in-door play ground. It's an outing that is usually fun, but not without it's ups and downs when it comes to ideal behavior. I think anyone who has a child or has witnessed a child (that should be all of us) can agree that the public domain is not always a place where manners shine and obedience is at the forefront of the mind. Today was no exception, with two particular situations standing out in the midst of an otherwise pleasant experience.
The first happened at the play ground. It gets crowded fast when the heat index is over 100, so before long there were kids everywhere. Marianna and I have been talking a lot lately about the importance of taking your turn in a line, so I was watching carefully as she stood to wait her turn to go down the slide. So far so good until Marianna got to the top of the steps and the child behind her shoved her hard enough to propel her forward, face and hands first, onto the slide. Keep in mind that the slide is no higher than two feet off the ground, so there was no serious danger, but she was scared and a little hurt nonetheless. That kind of thing is almost to be expected in the high-energy environment a busy playground engenders, but what was surprising in the incident was the subsequent action of the mother of the offending child. She had run over when she saw him push Marianna down, but not one word of rebuke came out of her mouth. She simply helped him sit down and encouraged him down the slide with no mention of the behavior whatsoever. No doubt she wasn't happy, but for whatever reason, she chose to do nothing at all.
It was nearly an hour and half later when the second snafu occurred, and this time it was Marianna's turn to shine. We were in a store and I had asked her to try on a pair of pants. She did it gladly. What she did not do gladly was to take the pants back off. When that request came she reared back and did every mother's nightmare - she started to wail at the top of her lungs. I can honestly say that doesn't happen often at all, but that doesn't lesson the degree of horror when it does. I immediately tried to hold her to calm her down, but that made her scream louder. I whispered in her ear that she would be punished when we got out to the car, and again, that only made it louder. There was no way I was backing down once the battle lines had been drawn, so the pants eventually did come off and Marianna returned to her seat, but not before I was reminded how humbling it is to be a parent. It's difficult to stay cocky about parenting abilities or styles of discipline when a display like that pops onto the radar and won't go away without a fight.
I'm zoned in on this kind of thing right now because I've been reading a book by Dr. Dobson on the responsibility of the parent to bring up a child with both consistent love and consistent discipline. I believe with all my heart his assertion that permissive parenting is no favor to the child, as it creates a human incapable with dealing with life in a reasonable way. I also think that the Bible lays out a plan for parenting that stands in direct conflict with the permissive philosophy. God put me in my child's life to be her compass and to set her boundaries. If I fail to do anything when she goes off course or crosses the line, I've done her a great disservice! It's so hard to have a swift consequence in public in this day and age when the spanking spoon is akin to the plague, but I guess we all know that parenting isn't a walk in the park! Some days are easy and some days are hard, but what I'm asking God to do right now is to help me teach Marianna how to have a heart for God above all other things. And at this age, it all starts with obedience. Sometimes the task is daunting, but it is a responsibility I don't take lightly. When it comes down to it, I guess the most important thing is to pray and ask God to give me the wisdom to deal with each situation as it comes, even when that happens to be in public!