Last evening, I had one of those parenting moments that gives you pause. At school, I’d call it a “teachable moment”.
My living room was a jumble of noise. The oldest was practicing his guitar with the amp a little too loud. The middle child was playing a game on his Kindle, and my daughter was absorbed in a video on her Kindle. My husband was watching TV.
“I’m going back to the bedroom to work for awhile,” I announced. “It’s too distracting in here.”
And work I did, for nearly fifteen whole minutes. But my progress was halted when my son appeared next to my bed, a sorrowful expression on his face. “Mom, we spilled something on the carpet.”
We’re defined by the choices we make in our lives. As frustrated as I was with the interruption, I took his little hand in mine and had him lead me to the spot. Maybe it wasn’t so bad.
But it was.
Not wanting to bother Mommy, the kids had decided to make their own cups of milk with Nesquik strawberry powder mixed in (their dad had stepped outside to make sure the garage was locked up for the evening). Somehow, the container had been knocked over. Pink dust littered the table, the carpet, and a basket of snacks I’d packed up to send to their grandmother’s house.
My daughter was on her knees, scrubbing at the powder with a baby wipe.
My temper kicked up a notch, but I kept it under control.
“Carson, what are you doing?”
“I have to clean up the stain,” she explained.
“Why didn’t you come tell Mommy right away?”
She raised those big chocolate eyes, swimming with tears, and whimpered, “Because I thought I’d be in trouble.”
My stomach clenched. This was it. The parenting moment.
I had a choice in that moment. I could have spanked her and sent her to bed. I could have yelled. After all, by taking something wet to the powder, she had created a stain.
Instead, I went to the cabinet and got out the carpet powder (do you know this magic? Resolve Moist Carpet Powder is amazing for my light-colored carpet). I had her sit next to me, and I carefully poured some of the white powder onto the carpet and gently smoothed it over the crimson stain.
“Is it gone, mama?”
I shook my head. “I want you to see something, Carson. When we try to hide things because we’re afraid we’ll get in trouble, it only makes things worse. Right now, it looks like the stain is gone. But watch what happens.”
With the tips of my fingers, I began to massage the powder into the carpet. It took on a salmon tint, and her little face fell. “Is it ruined?”
“It might be. Do you know what you did wrong?”
She shook that sweet little head and a tear fell. “Mommy’s not mad that you had a spill–but remember next time that’s why Mommy and Daddy pour drinks. What makes Mommy feel sad is that you tried to hide something you’d done to avoid getting in trouble. If you had come and told me right after you spilled the powder, I could have run the vacuum and it would have cleaned right up. It would have taken some time to get it all, but it would have been easy.”
“Because you got it wet, though, trying to hide it, the carpet might be stained.” I pointed at the drying powder. “The thing is, you can’t always hide from your mistakes. When I first put on the cleaner, you thought the mess was gone, but the longer it sat, you saw the color come back, right?”
She sat and watched while I vacuumed up the powder. There was still a faint pink tinge to the carpet. Her lower lip started to tremble. “I’m in big trouble now. It’s not going to go away.”
“Maybe not. I have some carpet shampoo that I’ll try in a minute. While I get it out, I want you to sit here and think about what I said.”
For the record, the carpet did come clean (again–Resolve carpet shampoo–I cannot say enough). The stain was washed away, and the table was wiped spotless.
At bedtime, I asked Carson to think about what had happened and tell me what she’d learned.
“Even when you think you might be in trouble, you have to tell the truth. Hiding things makes it worse.”
I hope she learned the lesson, although something tells me I’ll have to remind her a few more times as she grows. But I learned a lesson too.
There was a time when I might have overreacted. I was tired, frustrated, busy, and annoyed, and it would have been so easy to just snap at her. But just like hiding things makes problems worse, not facing parenting issues creates a bigger problem.
Because I sat her beside me and explained the problem clearly, she learned something more than “Don’t spill Nesquik on the carpet.” Sending her away would have only told her that Mommy was mad instead of reinforcing a life lesson about honesty and consequences.
Be careful what you do when you are faced with life’s little stains. You may be able to hide them–temporarily–but the truth has a way of rising to the surface. Remember…we are defined by our choices. There comes a point when we can no longer hide from our stains, because the Lord sees all. Make sure that the side of you He sees is the right one.