My situation was slightly different in that we hadn't arrived at the grocery store with the sole purpose of purchasing food, we went in order to help 'Nonnie' ring the Salvation Army donation bell. And oh, the kids were adorable! Seriously, people were dropping bills left and right with comments like, 'aren't they just so cute!' Note to the Salvation Army people; recruit 3-year-olds and their parents to ring the bell. Guaranteed cash flow. The kiddos had an absolutely wonderful time wishing merry Christmas and happy Christmas to everyone passing. Hannah being my shy one had a little difficulty warming up to the idea of talking to strangers. This of course should have been my early warning signal that a storm was brewing just beneath the surface of her rosey cheeks. And although she was initially shy, that soon wore off and she was happily ringing the bell with enthusiasm giving out 'merry Christmas' wishes with a seemingly deep satisfaction. It was a proud moment to say the least - I even posted photos of facebook. Yes, I was proud and with reason they were doing great!
THE ENSUING STORM AND A LESSON LEARNED
About 20 or so minutes into the bell-ringing escapade, Hannah needed to use the restroom. And so we rushed off with hopes of preventing any accidents that are known to happen from time to time, especially when distraction and fun are keeping little ones occupied. Much to my dismay we were slightly too late and as a result I was left puzzling with what to do with a soaking wet pair of underwear. Thankfully the rest of her clothing showed very little signs of an accident so we were able to just peel off the undies and slip the clothes back into place. Done. I, being grateful that I wasn't dealing with a much bigger problem (ha ha ha) and in lieu of a better plan decided to simply toss the soiled panties into the garbage. BAD IDEA! Hannah freaked! Her reaction could easily have been equal to the loss of a favorite toy or perhaps being outright left at the grocery store. Crying, screaming, hysterics... you get the idea. I suppose I had a choice to make and I briefly considered the possibility of removing the underwear from the trash and somehow taking them with us, but this moment was brief and my response to the situation was, 'no - not going to happen.' I believe that a good portion of my reaction had more to do with Hannah's response and her temper than the actual potty-accident situation. I was slightly grateful that we were at least sheltered from the masses inside the small public restroom - for the moment.
After spending several painful moments of trying to reason with Hannah and then giving the usual threats of 'going to the car,' it seemed as if we had reached an understanding... Seemed. Still with tears streaming down and subsequent sobbing and sniffling we left the restroom and entered the main drag through the check-out (no, this restroom wasn't in the BACK of the store, it was front and center). It was then that the panic of leaving behind the underwear and the blood-curtling scream started. You know the kind of scream where people in certain areas of the country would probably call CPS on you, the type that happens in the safety of your home and that you only hope never happens in public? Yep, it happened. My first taste of that type of real embarrassment and humiliation due to the behavior of my child that is on display to... well, I have no idea how many - but a lot of people (I couldn't bring myself to look). I'm just say'in it as it is - it was totally humiliating and infuriating.
It is in moments like these that emotion has a way of blinding you completely. By God's grace, I was able to simply explain to Hannah that her behavior was wrong. But even in this, I failed... miserably. If only I had James Dobson, Ted Tripp, or Ginger Plowman standing there coaching me - I seriously would have paid money for that. I was left simply to my own wits, or so I believed. I chose my words poorly making her astonishing behavior the focus and totally leaving out any responsibility on my part for my angry reaction. You see, my greatest concern in that moment was me. Not Hannah. Me and how spoiled my image was in that moment. I had become one of those parents with that kind of child. Horrible, absolutely horrible, but it was an honest reflection of my heart in those tense moments. And that's the yucky truth of it. Despite her out-of-control reaction to me tossing what was apparently a valued possession, I was focusing more with her bad behavior than using that opportunity to train and correct, helping her to see where her heart was.
It wasn't until a long car ride and a fuming vent session with Jonathan that God gently, despite my dripping with sin reaction, began to open my heart to see how I had totally missed IT. As I was unloading the kids (who had fallen asleep) He put it on my heart to simply hold Hannah in my lap and rock her to back sleep. And during that short window of awake time that she had I was able to tell her that I was sorry, and to share with her that the things in which we place our happiness are simply never going to make us happy. It is Jesus and nothing more. He gave everything for us so that we could be happy in Him. It was the simplest of truths but it bathed us both in a moment of grace and forgiveness.
Although I left that grocery store with a tattered and beaten pride dragging behind me, I came home washed and whole. For this moment, I am able to stand again not on my own value and worth which I all to often look for in my kids and their actions. I am happily complete and separate from my wrong behavior because of Jesus.
I am now happy to report that I can join the rank of parents with out-of-control children - I am actually happy. What a painful and yet needed reminder of God's love extended in our worst moments. I can only hope that I will remember this when the next storm breaks loose again.