Last week the priest gave a wonderful homily on love. This included parental love, familial love, and unconditional love. It talked of loving others as God loves you. It also talked about discipline, which means "to teach".
During this homily, as usual, some children got restless. Some parents struggled more than others. One small child was dragged out for a spanking. Right as the priest finishes preaching love a child is facing a spanking. It wasn't a child who was hitting, or more disturbing than any of the others. It was an average small child, one who developmentally really couldn't sit still and quiet for an hour. It was a child who wanted something but either wasn't being given it or wasn't being understood. It could have been any child in that mass.
In other words, it wasn't the child, it was the parent. I always look for the good in people. Maybe it was a parent who was frustrated. Maybe the parent already had a rough day with the children. Maybe it was a parent who didn't know an alternative. Maybe it was a parent who thought this is what was the "right way" (you know what happens when you "spare that rod").
I waited a week to write it. I wanted to find the right words. I am human and have no right to judge. I needed the time to let go of my feelings for the parent before I could let my sorrow, for a child raised that way, be expressed in a constructive way.
God does call us to protect the weak. That doesn't just mean the abused, sick, or hungry. That also means the children. Not just our own children, but all the children who are not receiving that unconditional love.
I've decided to spend Sundays sharing. I will share a tip, a website, a bible quote, a book title, a product, a craft, etc. I will share something that could possibly help your child make it through an hour mostly sitting. Or I will share something that will help you understand where your child is developmentally. I will share something that will give you an alternative. Maybe it will instead be a prayer for you, something you can have in your head to help with your frustrations.
Today I will start with something small since I've already talked so much. Today I share the Serenity Prayer. Because a child's developmental level is something you cannot change. It doesn't matter how you punish, you cannot make a 2 or 3 year old be capable of sitting perfectly still and quiet for an hour. Just as you can't make a 1 or 2 year old, going through a separation anxiety phase, stop crying when you leave them in the nursery. Or just like you can't make a 1 or 2 month old sleep through the night. That doesn't mean that every part of every developmental stage is easy. It does mean that accepting that it cannot be changed can help you relax about it.
It also takes courage to change the things that are not developmentally appropriate. It takes courage to discipline a child. It takes courage "to teach" them rather than just punish then. It especially takes courage to discipline them in the way they need you to when you are out in public. You have to be able to ignore the scrutiny around you. Some of that scrutiny is just in your head, it isn't real. Some of that scrutiny is real but it doesn't matter. How you treat your child is something you have to live with, not them. It can take a lot of courage to realize that and then move forward, remembering who does matter, your child.