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Satisfying Fruits

Yesterday afternoon Cora came out of her
room after quiet time begging to play with her rock collection. She
and Maddie both have a jar of polished rocks they’ve bought
at various museums and tourist sites, and their glass jars are a
rainbow of smooth polished rocks.

I laid down some ground rules – keep the rocks in the living
room, don’t feed them to the cat, etc. – and opened the
jar. Then I made my big mistake – I disappeared into the
office to catch up on some emails.

Ten minutes later, I heard an ear-splitting crash followed by an
even more ear-splitting “NOOOOOOOOO!” from Cora.
Rushing out, I saw Cora and Maddie standing in our wood-floored
kitchen, Cora wailing and Maddie looking shocked. At their bare
feet was the shattered glass jar, splintered all over the kitchen,
rocks scattered everywhere.

“NOBODY MOVE!” I yelled. Both
girls have been trained to know that I will only yell in an
emergency or a dangerous situation, so they both froze. I slipped
on shoes and picked them up, one by one, relocating them to the
carpeted living room.

As I cleaned up the mess, Cora sobbed on and on about how Maddie
had dropped her jar and now she had nothing to hold all her rocks.
Maddie, stricken, told me it was an accident – they had
“hidden” the rocks all over the room and were playing
“collect some rocks” in the jar and it had slipped from
her hands. “But now I have no jar for my rocks!” Cora
wailed again. Maddie’s eyes and nose turned red – the
sign that she was crying silently and feeling shame or fear. She
turned on her heel and went quietly upstairs to her room, I assumed
for some quiet time to calm down.

While I swept, I explained to Cora that it was an accident and her
words were making Maddie feel bad. “Cora, the jar was yours,
and it was your responsibility. Maddie didn’t do this on
purpose. Plus, I’d told you to keep it in the living room,
which is carpeted. And to be fair, this is partly my fault as
well,” I continued. “I should not have allowed you to
play with the jar at all. Mommy should have known better than to
let you play with something glass.”

I heard Maddie coming back downstairs and then there she was,
coming around the corner with a miserable red face. “Here,
Cora,” she said, holding out an empty jar identical to the
one that had broken. “It’s the jar for my rock
collection. You can have it, and I’ll put my rocks in
something else since I broke yours.”

I stared at my little six-year-old and had to hold back tears
myself. Where did she learn this, and how did it come out unbidden?
I spend so much time seeing my children’s inherent sinfulness
– all the ways they struggle with their natural selfishness
and meanness and self-centeredness – that the sheer
UN-selfishness of her act humbled me. Sure, I could have suggested
such a thing and forced Maddie to turn over her own jar – and
she probably would have. But that Maddie thought of it herself, and
did it right away – I have an amazing kid.

We don’t often get to see such fruit from our own labors. The
hours we put into serving our children; the blood we taste from
biting our tongues to keep from speaking sharply when we’re
tired or impatient; the hundreds of thankless tasks we perform
every day with little to know hope of them ever being noticed; we
do these things because we love our kids and are trying to lead by
example. I can’t count how many times I’ve sat with a
crying child on my lap, softly speaking to her and patiently going
over the same ground time and time again: what she did wrong, why
it was wrong, what she’ll do differently. And every so often,
something happens to show that our kids are watching. And learning.

I feel like I just got an Employee Review, and received five
glowing stars.


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