I am reminded of a time when my daughter was in middle school and wanted to have a sleepover for her birthday. We live in a very large city and after grade school there are several grade schools in each area that are sent to the one middle school so there are a slew of new kids. My daughter wanted to invite some of her old friends and some new ones as well to her sleepover. We agreed on the time and place and I did my best to gear up for a middle school party. She was my oldest and I was not sure what to expect now that they were in middle school.
We had decided that we would go to a movie and then home for pizza making a quick stop at a video rental store to pick out a few movies for the girls to watch. I had all the girls in my mini-van and the conversations that I overheard during the drive were somewhat shocking to me at the time. I really do not know what I expected but certainly not the vicious gossip I heard about other children or the detailed boy talk. I recall looking up in the rear view mirror wondering what I should say. My daughter was not talking with this particular group of girls and was not hearing what I was hearing. I finally said something to the effect that “If you don’t have anything nice to say about someone you shouldn’t say anything at all girls.” To which they looked up at me and changed the subject without much trouble or any appearance of embarrassment on their part.
I was a little taken aback by one girl who had a dog collar on and wore all black including her nails and lipstick, which made me wonder what my daughter was thinking in inviting her. My daughter is a Christian girl and we have raised our children to love the Lord and love everyone but I found myself looking at this girl with a bias that I normally did not feel. I tried never to judge other people based on the way they looked but this was the first time one of my children had brought home an individual that looked and acted in this way. This particular girl was a little arrogant and flippant in her attitude and I kept trying to figure out what my daughter saw in her.
We stopped at the video store and I was shocked at the trouble we had getting videos to take home. Many of the girls wanted to rent R rated movies which we did not allow in our home. So I had to press that rule even though my daughter had already told them no. When we finally made it through that situation we went and picked up our pizza. We were going to play board games or watch videos for the rest of the night. We had cots and sleeping bags and pallets made up in my daughter’s room, thankfully it was big enough to fit all the girls and the night went off without too much trouble. The girls seemed to have fun, even the couple of girls that seemed out of place.
The next day after everyone had left I started talking to my girl about the night and if she had a good time. She told me it was fun but that those two girls were a little bit of a challenge. I asked her why she had invited them and she told me it was because they were best friends so she invited both but the one girl (with the dog collar) was really in a bad place in her home life and my daughter felt as if she was reaching out to her a couple of times at school. She said when they got alone the girl seemed to soften and share some of her feelings. My daughter had seen the pain and wanted to help. Come to find out it was a horrible, traumatic event that took place in her life having to do with the murder of her mother and being placed into a home with her godparents. This school happened to be in a very wealthy area of town and her parents were some of the wealthier as were her godparents. There was talk about the father being on trial for the murder and the godparents did not really want the girl and were seldom around.
Well, I was overwhelmed and thankful that I had let Christ’s love speak through me with all my dealings with these girls. What a horrible place for someone her age to be in or anyone for that matter! I was awed at my daughter’s compassion and kindness and sensitivity to this girl’s needs. She wanted to comfort this girl in some way and she told me that she thought by being the girl’s friend she might have the opportunity to share Jesus with her. It made me feel a bit small when a thirteen year old had this kind of depth and there I was worried about the kind of girls my daughter was associating with. It makes you step back and do some introspection of your own heart when your children have this kind of maturity.
Over the years my children have taught me so many things about receiving people into my home and showing them the love of Christ instead of judging them first by appearance. My son has also brought many boys into our home, some covered with tattoos and talking like sailors. As soon as I lay down the ground rules for cursing in the home they have always honored my requests and eventually I have been able to share the good news of the gospel of Christ with them. Most of these children are lost and alone in the world even if they do have families and many of them are just running the streets. I have learned much from my children about not judging and reaching out to not only these children but also to those I meet in my day to day life that may need love and encouragement.
Children are often times much more compassionate and sensitive than we are as adults because we have been tainted by the world and hardened over time. We have lost some of our sensitivity because we have often been burnt trying to help and we have decided to stop trying to help those in need. This is especially true when you live in a large city. As I write this I think about all the times we do not respond to our heavenly Father and we hurt Him but He keeps on loving us and trying over and over to bless us. We in turn need to keep our hearts open and if we get hurt then as the Lord instructed us in His word we can shake the dirt off our sandals and move on. “If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet.” Matthew 10:14 (NIV)
Another event that always sticks out in my mind as I look back over the years was a time when we were at a track meet after the race was over. One of my kids had just gotten through a race and we were at the drinking fountain getting a drink when another child came up (who was one of the better runners) and jumped in front of my child as they continued to hold down the water fountain button for this child to drink. Then they just walked away without as much as a thank you but with an arrogant look as if to say, “I am the better runner, you should move and hold down that button so that I can get a drink.” I found myself just staring at the child with my jaw just a little dropped. I mentioned it to my child and in turn they just looked at me and said, “It’s okay mom, it’s their problem not mine.” This was another very humbling time for me as a parent and also as an adult. How many times do we let others offend us and we feel hurt and somehow blame ourselves for their bad behavior? I would say too many. I was overwhelmed by the maturity and grace that my child displayed that day and it was a lesson that I would keep with me forever.
We as adults sometimes need to take our cue from our children when it comes to compassion, kindness, and in the way we often judge other people. We need to find out the facts before we pass judgment and change our attitudes towards those who do not fit our paradigm. We also need to not be so quickly hurt by other people’s bad behavior and be so ready to take it upon ourselves as a personal assault. Sometimes it is just “their problem” as my child so succinctly put it. We can learn a lot from our kids if we take the time to talk things over and listen to their hearts. I am so thankful for what my children have taught me over the years and you just may be surprised what your children have in store for you if you are listening!
Rachel is an ex-babysitting pro as well as a professional writer and blogger. She is a graduate from Iowa State University and currently writes for www.babysitting.net. She welcomes questions/comments which can be sent to rachelthomas.author @ gmail.com.