On Holiness in Parenting

Yesterday I went to Target and saw a display that most mothers can relate to even if they have never acted on this kind of frustration.  As I pulled in the parking lot, looking for a place to park I happened upon a woman loading her car in preparation to leave.  I sat and waited while another woman walked briskly to her car parked next to the first car, with one daughter in her cart and one daughter backwards over her shoulder, with flailing arms and legs in a frantic attempt to escape.  The mother half lowered/half dropped her daughter to the ground and held her there with her knees while she unloaded her purchases into the cart. 

At this point I saw another, already open space so I parked, so as not to make this mother think I mistakenly thought I was sitting in a drive-in watching the dramatics that her daughter (probably about 4 years old, by the way) was unashamedly displaying.  I could not help but continue to watch, though, as the scene unfolded.  The mother threw her daughter in the car and began to scream at her in such a way that I can only assume meant that she had lost all control over herself.  She was beyond the point of simply yelling at her kids, but on the verge of sounding psychotic.  I imagine that, from the display the little girl was putting on in the parking lot, the mother was past the point of no return in exhaustion, embarassment and anger.  I got my kids out of the car, and out of the corner of my eye, I saw the mother sprinting through the parking lot.  The girl had finally made her escape.  The mother forcefully grabbed her, threw her, once again, into the car, screamed at the top of her lungs again, and I made my way into Target so that I would not have to witness anymore.  As I did, (my pregnancy hormones took over) and my eyes filled with tears in empathy for this mother. 

I know that some moms would say, “my kids never act that way”, “I’ve trained my kids to not act like that in public”, “I don’t lose my cool like that”.  I thought about that with my easy going son, and my very strong willed daughter in my cart.  I don’t think I’ve lost my cool like that with my kids, especially in public.  I may have lost it at home, but I’m sure I have tried very hard to not show that in front of them and especially not to take it out on them.  As I walked away, I couldn’t help feeling sorry for the mother and praying for her. 

We can do everything right in raising our children, but that doesn’t take away their God-given free will. We touched on this in my sunday school class last week.  The Bible say to “train up a child in the way he should go, and in the end he will not depart from it.”   Is this a promise?  Does this mean that every Christian parent is going to have all Christian kids?  I’m still wrestling with that in my own mind.  Another point that was brought up was how God is working in my life as a parent.  Yes, God wants to do a work on my child’s heart, but he also is working on me.  Am I willing to follow God’s word in raising my child for the 18 years (give or take) only to have them completely rebel and turn their back on God?  Am I more worried about appearances or am I concerned with how God can make my child a true reflection of Him? 

I don’t know what life is like at home for the little girl and her mother.  Maybe something tramatic just happened in their lives.  Maybe she doesn’t get much support from her husband at home.  Maybe she is a single mom.  I have no way of knowing, but it made me stop and think about how I tend to pass judgement on people because their kids at that moment are not as well behaved as mine… or maybe because their kids are so much better behaved than mine.  “We can’t all be perfect parents or have perfect kids”, is usually what I think to myself.  But, God doesn’t call us to perfection he calls us to Holiness, with however much grace and mercy that might entail… for my kids or for someone else’s.


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