Saturday, August 10, 2013

A little respect goes a long way

Psalm 125:4 (NIV)

Lord, do good to those who are good,
   to those who are upright in heart.
Jack did not want to go to the store today. He told me as much, without concealing his utter disgust at the notion. But because Kristie was out all day and I’d pledged to pick up certain items before her return, we more or less had to go. And since we were going to the trouble of shopping at one grocery store, I made the list as comprehensive as possible, filled a cooler with ice packs and steeled myself for an afternoon in suburbia.

On the way to our first stop, he adjusted the air vent in the car. I asked if he was hot or cold. No answer. I pressed, no response. I maxed out the air conditioning, even pressed the recirculation button. He was silent and adjusted his vent some more. I explained all I needed was a one-word answer. He told me he didn’t care if he was hot or cold. I explained that’s not what I asked, that I was curious if he was too hot or too cold so I could change the settings to accommodate his comfort.

As he dug in, I felt myself getting agitated, even as I realized we both were blowing the situation far out of proportion. So I remembered the sermon from last Sunday — the one about respect between parents and children — and dialed myself down. Rather than simply screaming “HOT OR COLD?!?” I calmly told him I thought he was being disrespectful by refusing to answer a simple question. I knew he was upset about having to go to the store, but we had to run the errands and we’d all have a better day if we were kind to one another.

He didn’t warm up immediately, but on the way into the store he asked if he could hang out by the electronics while the rest of us shopped. I said he could, and also mentioned we could hit up the snack bar for ice cream after we went through the checkout line. Some time in the 15 minutes we navigated the aisles of the warehouse, the surly petulance evaporated, replaced by an engaging, helpful little guy who not only tolerated our shopping, but took an active role in keeping Charlie amused and nearby during our next stop at the grocery store.

Jack didn’t care when Max wanted to push the cart. He never once whined for an item that wasn’t on our shopping list. He left his electronics in the car. He didn’t flip out when he got a chill from the frozen yogurt — or even notice it was yogurt and not technically ice cream. It got to the point where, aside from the frozen goods in our trunk and the rapidly mounting grocery bills, I was actually having fun and somewhat dreading going back home where I knew the kids would scatter from me and each other while I put away the food.

Usually when we go on one of these trips out of necessity, it’s a minor victory to get back to the house without one, two or three of them losing privileges. And while I did hear one of my kids say, “Hey Dad! Watch me hop on one leg over toward the watermelons!” it was for the most part a really great outing. We were a team and we had fun. Most importantly, we treated each other with respect, and that made all the difference. I’m keeping this one in the memory bank for future reference — possibly as soon as tomorrow.

A prayer for August 10:

Lord, I don’t know why it can take me so many times to learn a simple lesson. I am still unsure why the easiest solutions, right in front of my face, seem so hard to find. I clearly need to give more of myself over to you, to stop building walls that keep me from carrying out your will for me. Help me break down those walls and become a better husband, a better father, a better example of the way your love changes lives. Amen.

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