Getting into the car this morning looked something like this:
“Mom! William won’t let me sit in the special seat!” Penny yells, eyes wide with shock at the injustice of it all. Penny sat in the special seat yesterday. She knows it is William’s turn.
William runs past her, and his elbow just might have hit her rib cage, to secure said special seat. His face is set in a cold stare.
Penny wails. Tears and snot flow.
I roll my eyes and feel the impatience grow.
Penny stands in place. “William hit me! He hit me!”
Penny is staying home sick for the second day in a row on the heels of a long weekend. The other two had an early dismissal on Tuesday and a delayed opening this morning. We are already late to school. “Penny. Da**it, you can stay home alone or you can get in the car,” I threaten, hoping she won’t call my bluff.
She whimpers and climbs in.
William just might have tried to kick her as she climbs past him into the way back. Then she sits there until I exhale a loud sigh (and perhaps another expletive) and secure her buckle.
We literally, literally have just come from a “family devotion” time. Praying together (“Sorry God for when I pouted,” prayed Penny. “Sorry, God for pushing my sister,” said William. “Sorry God for yelling at Mommy,” said Marilee), singing praise songs, reading about God’s love for us.
As we back out of the garage and Marilee asks, “Are you all done yelling now?” I’m all the more discouraged. What kind of hypocrite am I to go from prayer to yelling at my children? What kind of example am I setting? What kind of kids am I raising: grabbing and shouting and pushing and insisting, always insisting, on their own way.? What kind of mother am I to swear at my sick daughter?
But then I wonder whether those moments of prayer and singing and remembering God’s love for us were exactly what we all needed to be ready for right now.
I say, “Okay everybody, I think it’s time for all of us to say sorry for being jerks.”
“You was a jerk, Mommy?” Marilee asks.
“Yep, I was a jerk for yelling at Penny and Penny was a jerk for crying about the back seat and William was a jerk for the way he treated Penny. Do we want to be lovers or jerks?”
“I want to be a lover!” Penny yells.
“I want to be a lover,” says William, after a long pause, “but I also want the special seat.”
I catch his eye in the rearview mirror and I think he’s trying to hold back a smile at his own ridiculousness.
“Here’s the thing, everybody. God loves us even when we are jerks. And God forgives us even when we are jerks to each other. And God gives us the power to learn how to love instead of being jerks. That’s what I want. I want to love you more and more and be a jerk less and less.”
They nod. Penny wipes away her tears. And we drive to school.