It all started with a peppermint.
Our church secretary, Mrs. Teresa, has a bowl of mints on her desk that almost all of the Bible Study toddlers have discovered. She loves to share candy with them and they are more than happy to trade hugs and fist bumps for it. Some of the kids get to eat their candy right away, but since I never let Justus get it until we’re leaving it’s always lunchtime; he is allowed to have it for dessert.
For a two-year-old he has handled this rule surprisingly well, agreeing to wait until after lunch to eat his candy.
Tuesday is also Taco Tuesday at the local Qdoba so we almost always go there for $.99 tacos after Bible Study. Justus is usually very excited and will yell, “Taco! Taco!” over and over until he gets to eat. Today came with a different kind of yelling.
He was, for some unknown reason, already in a bad mood when we left the church. He kept crying, “Help! Help!” wanting me to open his mint. I told him no and reminded him that he could have it after lunch. “No eat! Candy!” Oh brother.
I buckled him into the car and listened to him whine and cry all the way to the restaurant. Occasionally he does this but usually calms down when he realizes we’re at the taco place. Today he insisted on being held and repeatedly asked for his candy. I continued to tell him no as we waited in line (which took FOREVER. We’re not the only ones who like Taco Tuesday.) When we finally got to the cash register I had to put him down to pay. He ran over to get his booster seat, but instead of carrying it like he usually does, he set it down on the floor for me to carry. Since I was only born with two arms and had to carry our food and Thalia, he was out of luck, but he refused to put his candy in his pocket or my hand. So I told him I would be back for him and his chair.
He started screaming.
I mean, really screaming.
Like someone was stabbing him.
I walked to the table to set down the food and the sister and some kind gentleman brought me the booster chair with Justus following behind, still screaming.
I put him in his chair and set his taco in front of him, hoping to distract him. No luck. He continued to scream and yell, “Candy! Help! Candy!” I’d had enough. I told him to stop screaming or he was going to timeout. Usually the threat of timeout is enough to calm him but not today. So I did what I usually do when we’re at a restaurant and he needs a time out – I put him down about five feet away from me, in a spare chair against the wall.
Today you could have hired my child to be a tornado siren. He started screaming EVEN LOUDER. The last two people in the restaurant who hadn’t noticed us were now staring. A kind woman offered to watch the baby for me if I wanted to deal with the banshee by the door, insisting that she and her companion had both been there, but I decided enough was enough and we were not going to force the rest of the patrons to dine to the dulcet tones of my child imitating a murder victim. I got a to-go container, packed us up, and walked out.
Still the screaming continued, all the way home. It alternated between whimpering and all out shrieking, for five minutes.
Then his sister decided to join in.
See, I knew she was hungry at the restaurant. My plan was to give him his lunch and then feed her while he ate. But unfortunately, his actions had consequences and they affected not only me but her as well. She finally got herself so worked up I had no choice but to pull over less than five minutes from home and try to nurse her but she wouldn’t calm down enough to eat; I buckled her back in and headed towards the house.
When we got home, I marched in my screeching brood and proceeded to calm Thalia so she could eat. Meanwhile, Justus threw himself on the floor and thrashed around, hollering to beat the band. Twenty minutes later and, still crying, he asked if he could eat. “Of course,” I said. “Go get in your chair.”
Blubbering, he climbed into his chair and ate his taco, his meal finally culminating in the problem causing peppermint.
It never ceases to amaze me the parallels I see between parenting my children and God leading us. Frequently when he gives us direction, we kick and scream or just out and out tell him, “No,” fighting every step of the way. Often our decision to disobey negatively affects not only us but those around us as well. Eventually, after exhausting every other option, we grudgingly do what he said in the first place, still angry and fussing, but He is faithful to His word. He has a good plan, good things for us. How great would it be to just do it quickly, the first time he says it? He keeps His promises. He is a good father.
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
I promise to try to remember this story the next time He says something I don’t want to hear.
I hope my son will remember it too.