"Look to the helpers"- Mr Rodgers popped into my head and I promptly followed his advice. It was reassuring to know I have a decent fight or flight instinct in a moment of chaos. My head was about me and I calmly and quickly derived a plan of action. I scooped up my screaming son, pulled the tiny grocery cart to the side and made eye contact with the grocer who very politely asked if I needed a larger cart. Fear not, my son was not hurt in any way-- he was having a full blown two year old tantrum right in the middle of the produce department. He decided to throw himself down between the avocado stand and the banana display and kick and scream. Little did I know God wanted to use this produce section exhibit to produce in me a new attitude. I experienced a picture of grace at the grocery store.
You see, my kid is a TK- a Teacher's Kid. Before the little man ever made his grand entrance into the world I already had a decade of experience teaching little people how to read, write and function in the school environment. I firmly hold that little people are capable of rising to the highest standards. It is our responsibility to model, teach, and expect great things from our kids. That being said...yes, I'm THAT Mom. My two year old has chores and a chart to document when those chores are completed. I make him pick up the toys at home and at Grandma's house too. I expect him to use a real glass cup, sit at the dinner table and try new foods. He knows what the words "properly", "consequence" and "persevere" mean and can accurately use them in a sentence. And I may or may not have sung three different versions the alphabet song to him on the day he was born and...every day since. To say I have lofty expectations for my little guy is an understatement.
It was a Friday afternoon. The two year old's dad had been working out of town for some time and the resident little man was well past his nap time. The plan was to grab one of the cool "car" grocery carts (which the kid loves), dash through the store and grab milk, salad and bread and make it home in time for a good long siesta. To quote Anamaria from the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie, "It WAS a good plan."
All good teachers know that things rarely go as planned and are willing to roll with a plan B. We got inside the store and all the car carts were in use. I thought, "No problem, we'll just take a regular cart." Except, my darling, exhausted shopping partner sighted the mini "shopper in training" carts. "Oh, boy" was what I thought. But clear expectations and consequences is what I said. The kid agreed to the plan. As long as he stayed close to me and listened he could maneuver the cart. If he didn't listen it was into the regular boring old cart he went. No exceptions. Clear expectations. Consistent consequences. Lessons learned.
We were making good progress. We had all but two more items to go. And then he sighted the apples and ran full speed to them (what's up with apples and their lure of temptation?). He disappeared behind a display of cabbages and I went into full Love and Logic, quick consequences teacher mode. A firm "stop, come here" and "I love you too much to argue" came out of my mouth and the preschooler hit the ground in a full throttle tantrum.
Enter mental images of Mr Rogers with good advice and a kind grocer. He asked if I needed a cart and a florist from the next department delivered it with a smile. The little guy wiped his eyes, apologized to the store employees and onlooking shoppers and accepted his consequence. He would sit in the regular cart for the remainder of the excursion. Story over. Or so I thought.
I was giving myself an imaginary pat on the back for following through on my promised consequence. I was having an internal dialogue about how important it is to set firm boundaries and I was congratulating myself for surviving the embarrassing moment and using it as a teaching opportunity. I started talking to my little guy about how I loved him and it was my job to keep him safe and because I loved him I WOULD discipline him etc, etc, etc. But it turns out the lesson was for me. As I was lecturing the little guy, the florist came up with a bright green balloon and placed the string in my two year old's chubby little hand.
I slightly panicked. Inwardly I thought, "No! No! No! Don't you dare reward his naughty behavior! I was teaching him an important lesson!" But outwardly I whispered "thank you" and instructed my son to do the same. My son did not deserve the balloon. He did not earn it. But he was gleefully happy. The florist gently said, "This is a gift from me. It will make the rest of your trip easier." That's when it hit me. Grace. Grace lived out in the grocery store.
I do not deserve God's grace. I did nothing to earn it. But it is given freely as a gift. Generally, Grace is not the absence of consequence. My son still sat in the cart he did not like. King David still faced great heartache because of his sins, but God still blessed and loved him in the days that followed. We all walk hard roads and face difficult repercussions because of our actions and the actions of others...but God promises that we will never walk alone. His Grace is sufficient and brings great joy along the road. Thank you grocery store florist. Thank you for teaching me to give and receive grace wherever we go.
I love Jesus. I think my two daughters can change the world. I think you can too.
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