Friday, March 22, 2013

The Power of Words

Yesterday, I was feeling pretty good about myself. I'll break it down for you:

1. I am 31 weeks pregnant and feeling huge and pretty miserable. Not complaining, just putting it out there. But you know what? I managed to get myself off the couch, completely dressed, and ready to run errands by 10 AM. Even when I wasn't this pregnant, that was an accomplishment, but in my circumstances, it deserved a celebration or at least some streamers.

2. My son, when I explained to him that the day was special because we got to show our friends with Downs Syndrome that we love them by wearing blue and yellow, picked out a blue and yellow shirt to wear. I was shocked he got the concept and was so incredibly proud of thoughtfulness. Ok, so yeah, the shirt he chose was short-sleeved and it was 40 degrees outside, but if you ask me, this expression of love trumped a few extra inches of fabric. Plus, hello? It's called a jacket.

3. But Cohen hates jackets. *Hates* them. I don't know what it is about a coat, but my kid won't have anything to do with them. So when I made him wear his jacket yesterday? Complete toddler meltdown. He didn't care that it was cold outside or that his arms could possibly freeze and fall off his body; he wanted his coat off. I managed to calm him down by explaining to him why he had to wear his coat and acknowledging that I knew he was sad because he was wearing it and promising that as soon as we got in the store he could take it off. He replied with a whimpered, "Otay, Mommy" and pretty much let the issue go. And once we got in the store? That jacket was off, buddy. But I felt good about they way we both handled the situation.

4. We stopped by Sam's club for lunch and to pick up some diapers. Cohen has recently declared he is a big boy and doesn't want to have anything to do with babyish things like strollers and highchairs and shopping carts. And I'm OK with that because apparently it's time. So we've worked really hard on teaching him that he has to hold my hand or else he rides in the cart and he has to sit like a big boy or else he gets a high chair. Some days are hit-and-miss, but yesterday? Cohen was awesome. He sat at the table and ate his hot dog next to me like a perfect big boy. I was so proud.

5. And when we walked through the store to get his diapers? Same thing -- awesome child. Walking to the check out line, my hands were full with the giant box of diapers, so I told Cohen to follow me and not walk away. And he did. My 2 year old followed me through the store without running away or acting out.

See? You'd be feeling pretty great about yourself, too. You may even find yourself prancing a bit to the store exit. You'd probably have a giant grin plastered on your face, and you'd probably be singing "This is the best day eveeeeeer!" in your head.

It's only natural.

So when an older lady approaches you, looks you and your child up and down, and gives a slight sneer and says, "Don't you think he's cold?" your heart, if it is anything like mine, would probably drop. And all that feel -good that was coursing through your veins would freeze up. And you'd once again find yourself second guessing your parenting abilities and wondering if you really are screwing up your child like the constant mom guilt so often reminds you.

All because some woman who is so far beyond parenting a toddler and has no clue how well you are parenting or has any business at all providing commentary or advice or criticism or judgement decided to stick her nose where it didn't belong.

All I could do was lower my eyes and hold up his jacket that I was just about to put on him.

My friend (her name is Amy. She thinks it's weird that I never mention her name on the blog), later on, said I should have retorted with, "Don't you think you're nosey?" My pride and anger, as I was walking through the parking lot, wanted to go back to her and say, "Thanks for your judgement and criticism of my parenting. I was feeling pretty awesome that I managed to get my 7 month pregnant butt dressed and out today AND that my 2 year old is doing an awesome job of sticking by my side through this whole store even without me having to hold his hand. But you're right, I am a crap mom b/c I'm not forcing my kid to wear his coat indoors."

Funny how you always think of things to say after the fact. Funny, or you know, frustrating.

But people like that are everywhere. Why do we have the need to criticize others? When we share our opinions with others (especially when they are unsolicited), what do we gain? What good are we really doing? Why can't we just keep our mouths shut? 

See, that woman is the villian of my story, but I have been the guilty one before. I have, many times, opened my mouth and nosed my way into another's business. I have shared my opinion not out of love, but out of judgement and feelings of superiority and criticism. And you know what? I've gained nothing from it. Making someone feel less than me didn't make me a better or smarter person. It didn't make others respect me more or flock to be my friend. It didn't show Jesus to anyone.

And isn't that my job, my purpose in life: to show Jesus to the world? But how can the world possibly see Christ (or event want to see Him, for that matter) if those who claim His name are condescending, critical, harsh, judging, and seem to show everything but love and acceptance and understanding?

Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us. (Titus 2:78)

When Jesus met the woman at the well, He had all the authority in the world look down His nose at her, to berate her, call her all sorts of names and tell her what a failure and disappointment she was. He could have, but He didn't. He spoke to her in love, knowing that was the only way to point her to God. 

That's how I (and you, and that woman at Sam's) are to treat others: in love, gently, building them up. 

Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person. (Colossians 4:6)

Did the Sam's Club lady mean to make me feel the way she did? Maybe, maybe not. It's not my job to decide that. But it is my job to learn from the incident, inspect my life for ways that I butt in and make others feel inferior or criticized, and change that about myself.  Change the way I treat others.

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. (Ephesians 4:29)

And by the way, today is another cold day, and my child is once again in a short-sleeved shirt. So boo-yah, Sam's Club lady, boo-yah.


  1. Ugh, I can't believe she said that. You deserve streamers + confetti + bubbles.


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