Of Parenting, Crooked Backs & Delightful Conversations With Rough-looking Men
Thanks to back spasms that have been tormenting me, off and on since June, with no medical explanation, I hobbled toward the checkout at Canadian Tire, looking like an 80-something-year-old with too much plastic surgery. (This is an observation I made recently, when a certain actress was on the new and her body and face didn’t match, and that is what I remind me of on those days.) On my best days I forget it ever happened and on my worst days, which fortunately are few and far in between, I cannot walk without support. And on the not-good-but able to move days, I shuffle slowly with occasional debilitating spasms. It was one of those days and I hoped to not stand too long.
I assessed the line lengths and the cart contents. Why I even bothered to assess it, I’m not sure. It’s useless, really, choosing the shortest line. I should have learned that a few days earlier when I tried it, and stood there, shifting from foot to foot, my arms loaded with more than enough stuff to justify a cart, while the elderly lady in front of me struggled with her card. Turned out she just didn’t know how to use it, and after about a dozen tries, I finally whispered to the cashier that she’s not finishing the process after entering her pin. In no time, after that, I was out of there. Never mind that the long line beside had moved a fine lot of people through by then, and I’d have been long gone had I chosen that one.
I chose a random line, in the Canadian Tire store, knowing it would be what it would be, and entertained myself with people watching. The gentleman in front of me continued eyeing the product beside us. It’s strategically placed at the checkout, in hopes customers will pick up one little thing, or another, whether they need it or not. He reached for a measuring tape–a nice big one–and placed it on top of his stack. He glanced my way and in that moment I spoke spontaneously, as I do from time to time, in a boring moment like that. And, quite frankly, he looked as bored as I felt, and there was some kind of instant connection. I saw it in his eyes, a certain kindness that welcomes conversation. His tattoos, shaved head and biker’s beard and mustache made no difference to me, other than a passing observation.
“Everyone needs one of those,” I said, nodding at the measuring tape.
“I bet I already have nine or so at home,” he said with a chuckle.
“It’s always a matter of finding one when you need it, eh” I said, “especially when you have almost as many kids in the house. And I do… five,” I added. I didn’t add that we have six right now, with a German exchange student living with our family.
He snorted then, and for one moment I thought it was because of our having five kids. It just popped out, when I thought it, and even as I said it, I realized I should have kept my mouth shut. But it’s true. Things get used, misplaced and finding one out of nine measuring tapes, or nail clippers, or combs isn’t that easy.
He looked at me then, laughing, “I have more kids than that… I have fourteen!”
“Oh wow! Good for you,” I said. It was my turn to laugh, and then I did to him what people do to me when they learn we have five children. I offered a look that was a cross between admiration and disbelief. Admittedly, my shock was a bit influenced by his appearance. May as well be honest. I picture guys like him with fourteen Harley bikes, not that big a family.
He laughed again, “No. Good for you. You knew when to stop!”
“That may be a matter of opinion… ” I said, “One of my favourite parenting moments was the day one of our children yelled at my husband and me, in anger, for having such a big family.”
He laughed and shared his parenting highlight. “My all-time favourite moment was when my oldest son, then in his thirties, called and said, ‘Dad, I just did to my son what you used to do to me’, and he told me how he was angry with his son and yelled at him.” He laughed again, a twinkle in his eye, and continued, “And he said to me, ‘Then I stopped mid-sentence to say, ‘My gosh! I’m just like my dad!’ So I said to him, ‘What… you’re calling to blame me for that?’ and my son says, ‘No, Dad, I’m calling to say “I’m sorry. I finally get it!'”
The conversation carried on from there, about parenting and the moments we have, the ups and downs. We both spoke candidly, having similar personalities, and at one point, after a particularly revealing statement he said, “I’m no hypocrite…. Sometimes I wish I was.”
I laughed then, and echoed his statement. “Yeah… I’m not either. I tend to say it as it is,” I said. The cashier called to help the next person in line, and we parted ways.
It was a refreshing moment, with a complete stranger whom I will not likely meet again, sharing things as they really are. Life as it should be, in my opinion, with no pretenses. It reminded me of a message I received the other week from a young mom who felt like she really blows it sometimes. She started by asking me if I was ever afraid I’d make the same mistakes my parents made.
I wrote back, unfiltered and told her I never feared I would sexually abuse children. Ever. But, yes, I was afraid I would repeat the anger and other harshness, I wrote back and shared how I started with spanking our children much too hard, and out of anger. I told her how I yelled at them. And how there was a moment when I realized it was all wrong, the way I parented, and I went for help. I didn’t do it perfectly, after that, but things started to change. And it’s still a growing, learning experience. I told her she will be okay, and do well, and even reaching out will have a powerful impact.
She sent a note to thank me for being honest, because it’s not comfortable for people to admit to having done it wrong. Well, I did it wrong, and that’s just the way it is. It’s pointless to pretend it was any different than it was. It was pretty horrid, at times, the first years. It was lonely and I felt like a complete failure, and I begged God constantly to transform me, to make me a good mom. Then I discovered that He was far more interested in making my heart beautiful, by giving me a revelation of His kindness, than He was in suddenly perfecting me. And in discovering His kindness, I became more like Him, and thereby more kind to my family.
These candid conversations, sharing our imperfections, failures and what we’ve learned offer hope for the next generation. They’re necessary. I think to myself, if only we could be a bit more like that, and not pretend, the world would be a different place. It would be a community of sharing. And if the world can’t be made like that, all at once, I can still be that… And so can you. Then, if we can encourage others, the ripples will begin.
© Trudy Metzger
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Praying Like A Pagan: A Challenge from My Sons
I wasn’t planning to write a blog tonight, but, after tucking my two youngest into bed, I decided to take a few minutes to do so.
Tonight Tim & I had a great night. We met with a handful of couples for an evening of prayer and confession. Well, it started with one individual sharing some things with me a few weeks ago, and wanting to pray through some past ‘stuff’ and some ongoing struggles.
Within the context of meeting in a group such as this, we had never had such a meeting. It was new… the unknown. And it was beautiful. It turned out to be an evening of prayer, of reaching out to God as a group. The presence of God was sweet and powerful. The perfect ‘ending’ to an intense week.
We returned home shortly after 10:00. Todd, thirteen, and Kordan, ten, were ready for bed, but not asleep. There was a bit of a dispute between them about who would tuck them in bed, Daddy or me. In the end I was the one who went up.
Everyone in our family knows that when I do prayer time, I sometimes get carried away… well, maybe usually… and I ‘chatter’ to God about all kinds of things. When they were little it worked great for putting them to sleep. I would pray, and pray and pray, until they fell sound asleep. I didn’t necessarily do it for that reason, it was just a great ‘bonus’ to my time with God.
As always we prayed together when I tucked them in. First Todd prayed, then Kordan, and finally I prayed. Both prayed their unique prayers, but each included, “…thank you that tomorrow is Saturday, and we will clean a little and play a lot….” Todd added a ‘hopefully’ to the end of that prayer. And then it was my turn.
I did the usual and prayed a while, but tonight I caught myself and wrapped it up relatively quickly.
Immediately when I said ‘amen’, and before I could leave the room, Kordan said, “Wait, Mommy, wait… Turn on the ‘head light’ (meaning the light on the head of the bed)… there’s something I want to show you.”
He pulled a box from the head of the bed and I assumed it was something he had made, but, as he turned the box, I recognized his Bible box. He said something about the book of Matthew, and having learned something in Bible Quizzing at church.
He looked up the book of Matthew at the front of the Bible, then started paging through, looking for page 1051. A few chapters in he decided to flip large sections and get there faster. In Matthew he started skimming, eventually asking Todd for a bit of help for the chapter and then scanning for verses. He said it was about prayer.
The heading ‘Prayer’ caught my eye so I pointed to it. He held it up and I read it to him. When I got to verse seven, Kordan said, with a laugh, “Yeah, that’s the one, that’s what I wanted to show you.”
The verse says, “And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words…”
Both boys laughed their little hearts out at their own humour and wit, at having found a verse, just for me. “That’s you mom… that’s what you do.”
I laughed, and explained, “It’s a bit different. I don’t think I’ll be heard for talking a lot.” Then I added, “I just think God likes to listen to me chatter.”
They argued that maybe that was just my perception, not reality, and laughed again.
It was a fun and light ‘topping’ to a week filled with ministry, and seeing the power of God work in breaking the chains of silence, victimization and abuse.
It is no wonder God tells us to become like little children. There is freedom in laughter, freedom in humour, and freedom in the love, hugs and kisses of our children.
I finished tucking them in, my heart full with the wonder of being blessed with God’s love through our children. I said it in my prayer, and I’ll say it again. I am so thankful for our family.
And my prayers… well, they may continue to be as long as that of the pagans, but I still think God likes to listen to me chatter.
© Trudy Metzger
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