I was hiding in a book this morning when I heard my children yelling from the hallway.
“WHAT MADNESS IS THIS?” one 8-year-old shouted, followed by his twin with, “WHAT KIND OF MONSTER DOES THAT?”
I went to investigate, thinking they were watching another questionable YouTube video and that perhaps, rather than tell them to “shush” and “go away” and “of course you can have treats and screens; have you even met me?” and, finally, “I DON’T CARE WHAT YOU DO, just let me finished this chapter,” their mommy ought to get up off her lazy butt and, oh, I don’t know, be an involved parent or something.
As I came around the corner, I heard them muttering in front of the linen closet.
“This just isn’t right,” they said, and “Do you want to tell Mom or should I?”
“Tell Mom what?” I asked.
They jumped, slammed the linen door closed, put their bodies in front of it and said, “You don’t need to see this, Mom.”
You guys, I have heard this line before.
“You don’t need to see this, Mom” was the line delivered before I saw the Sharpie art on the hard wood floor.
“You don’t need to see this, Mom” was the line one of the girl children gave after slamming her brother’s fingers in the car door.
And “You don’t need to see this, Mom” was the line attempted when the eldest boy decided he was, too, old enough to use a butcher knife to cut his own apple.
“You don’t need to see this, Mom” is, in other words, LOOK NOW, MOM; SOMEONE or SOMETHING IS IN IMMINENT DANGER.
I gave them my grim, resigned face.
“Show me,” I said, and they sighed.
“OK,” they said, “but we tried to warn you,” and they opened the door to show me this:
I know, friends. I know. It’s AWFUL and TOTALLY UNEXPECTED. And believe me when I say I was as shocked as you are — as shocked as my boys — to find folded sheets in there.
“Folded sheets, Mom,” they said. “There are FOLDED SHEETS in our linen closet. OUR linen closet, Mom.”
“What do we do?” they cried.
“Should we FIX THEM?” they asked.
But I said, “No. No, we won’t fix them, boys. We’ll leave them there — folded — as a reminder of what could happen to our linen closet if we’re not vigilant about maintaining our linen closet standards. We’ll leave them there to keep us on our guard. We’ll leave them there to be covered by all the other sheets and towels and washcloths and escapee socks and underwear we shove into that teeny, tiny space, and we will do the linen-shoving with increased enthusiasm, knowing we are no longer just doing our chores, half-assed as usual, but we are also now symbolically standing up for our WAY OF LIFE.”
The boys nodded in understanding. They were ruffled by their discovery, yes, but they acquiesced, as they should, to my leadership and wisdom.
“We’ll leave them there, Mom,” they said, “but we promise you this — we will never, ever, EVER fold sheets. Just like you taught us, Mom.”
So, fellow parents, I want you to hear this today:
Sometimes you get down on yourself. Some days you don’t know if you’re doing this whole parenting gig right. Sometimes you question yourself, your values, your parenting, your life.
Me, too. Totally me, too.
But listen. LISTEN; there is HOPE.
A few short years ago my boys — the same kids pictured here — were all “How come we don’t fold our towels like they do at Leigh’s house, Mom?” and “Why do we never stick to Henry’s couch when we go over there?” and I wondered — I did — whether they would ever really get it, you know? Whether I was raising them up in the way they should go, like the good Lord said. Whether I was a Failure and Doing It Wrong.
Today I know, friends, that all the hard parenting work pays off.
ALL THE HARD PARENTING WORK PAYS OFF.
So keep on training up children in the way they should go, y’all, and someday — maybe even sooner than you think — your children, too, will not depart from it.
Praise Jesus and AMEN.
With love from your friend and THE BEST CHILD TRAINER EVER,
“Train up a child in the way he should go,
and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”