Wednesday, October 16, 2013

A lesson in humility

Yesterday I picked my daughter up from school, as usual. We got home, had after school snacks, and everyone was just relaxing. Then Miss Priss stood up and said, "Oh Mama, I gotta show you something." Typically that means she has an important note from the teacher about a field trip or school event.

Not this time. 

Miss Priss brought out a tube of toothpaste. She said the teacher gave it to her because she has stinky breath. 

Let me preface this. Miss Priss is now in the first grade. She managed to muddle through kindergarten with a few upsetting events, but she survived. And in the end, I found myself kinda proud of her. She did it! She overcame her supremely timid personality to make it all of the way to the end of the the kindergarten year. 

So back to the toothpaste. Of course, like most any parent, my first reaction was, "That's not true. It was probably just something the whole school was getting because of a dental health awareness event. Everyone in your class got that, right?" 

"No. Just me and a few other kids. Mama, I don't want to have stinky breath. I already brush my teeth and floss and use mouthwash. I really don't want stinky breath."

Miss Priss is really not prone to lying. I could tell she was kind of bothered, so I told her the teacher had to be just kidding.

"Mama she was NOT joking. I heard her say it. And everybody didn't get it so she must have been serious." 

So now I'm suspicious. It's too late in the day to call the school, and my mind starts going there. Why did she get toothpaste? We have well water, so maybe this was just something from the county school board office for kids with well water that need extra fluoride for good dental health. I would understand that. But then I let myself keep thinking on it. 

And let's face it. When we think on something we don't have all the information on, we tend to get it ALL wrong. ALL WRONG!!!

When I start devoting time to incomplete ideas, half stories, suspicions, etc, I almost always get it wrong. I dwell on it. And then my thoughts go to my childhood.

"Your breath stinks." 

"Your teeth look yellow."

"Cheetos teeth."

Trust me, I could list a million other things I heard as a kid from various places. But that's not important. The point here is that I was taking issues from my past and placing them on my child. My breath has probably never been the freshest. I have chronic allergy and sinus issues. I have acid reflux problems. Again, I could list several other reasons for why I've had bad breath- often having nothing to do oral health. It happens. It's just something you try to handle as appropriately as possible, but you can only use so much breath spray and gum. Am I right??

Then it became about my parenting abilities. "I make sure my kids brush their teeth. My children have great- excellent even- oral health!! Miss Priss was just at the dentist two weeks ago!!" I began to take it personally. That teacher must not think I do a good job.

Never a good place to be for a mother. 

So I started getting a little more bothered by the statement my daughter heard. I let it get the best of me. I went to Facebook and vented, and there were more than enough people willing to agree and encourage me to get ugly with the teacher. As soon as I posted my rant, I knew I should have been silent. For every comment that was encouraging a negative response, I replied with a diffuser. I got messages that truly helped me to see this as it was, and not take it to mean too much. Even still, I was getting mad and thinking I knew the whole story before I ever spoke to the teacher. 

When I woke this morning, I knew exactly what needed to be done. I started my day with prayer, which is usually my habit, and I asked the Holy Spirit to guide my every word. Put a damper on my mouth if I start to say something that misrepresents You. Thankfully, He did just that. 

I walked Miss Priss to class this morning, and asked her teacher into the hall to talk for a moment. I simply told her that I got the toothpaste that was sent home, but I just wanted to know where it came from. The teacher sort of shrugged and said some fifth graders brought it to her classroom for everyone in the class, and it was most likely from the school nurse. I told her I assumed as much, but that Miss Priss had mentioned something about stinky breath? Her teacher admitted that she did say this when one particularly feisty boy asked, and she meant it as a joke. She didn't realize other kids overheard, and said that she was so sorry that Miss Priss took it personally. 

So I thought the worst for a simple first grade style misunderstanding. The teacher did say it. Miss Priss took her seriously. And I found out as I picked her up today that the rest of the class actually received toothpaste Friday. Miss Priss was sent home early Friday because she'd had an accident with another student on the playground that resulted in a bloody nose and vomiting. So she didn't get the toothpaste until Monday. 

Everything was fine. All had been fixed. So why am I still feeling so bad?

Because I let it get to me. I let the enemy of all things good use my past to come at me. I began to think that the people at school must think I'm not doing a good job as a mom. They must think my kids are dirty. They must think we're too poor to buy our own toothpaste. They must think I'm stupid. Then I went to Facebook for further validation of my feelings. Bad idea.

Where should I have gone? That one's quite obvious in hindsight. I should have gone to God. 

Facebook is not God.

If Facebook were God, it would have told me this:

"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you." 

Instead, I chose to think on what I only knew in part. What wasn't at all honorable. What was so unjust I almost let my confederate redneck flag slip out. It wasn't pure, lovely, commendable, excellent or praiseworthy. But I let myself go there. 

God, forgive me. 

I didn't get ugly with the teacher. I didn't use her name on Facebook, so few people have any idea who she is. I didn't report her to the principal or the school board. But in my mind, I let a one-sided story go all too far. 

I know I'm not alone. I've done it before. I pray it doesn't happen again, but I am, after all, human. 

Please change my thoughts. Remind me of how You see me, of how You see my children. Help me to focus on what You know to be true, not what I think, not what I hear, not what the enemy may be saying. Remind me of the armor You provide in Your Word. Remind me of the right way to think. The right way to act. Help me to see Your truth and not get caught up in simple mistakes. Guard my heart. Guard my mind. Let me focus on only that which is true, pure, excellent, praiseworthy. Commendable. 

Today I decided to delete my original post and instead post about how I am thankful for teacher who are willing to deal with moms like me- who get it wrong all the time. 

If you are reading this, and you just so happen to be an educator or on staff at a school or school board- thank you. Thank you for being merciful towards me and my kind. We only want to see our kids grow in every way while in your care. We are trusting you to educate, encourage, protect and provide for our kids when we drop them off in the morning. We are asking the world of you, but we really want to believe the best about you. Prove us right. We will be quick to let you know when you mess up, but hopefully, we will be just as quick to apologize when we are wrong, as we would expect from you. And for those parents who are a little lost, who focus more on their own desires and often neglect their children, thank you for loving on those kids who may have stinky breath, stinky butts, dirty hair, lice, cockroaches, fleas, etc. Thank you for being what they never see at home. You are impacting that child in such a way that you may be the very reason why they do not repeat their parents' mistakes.

And now I'm off to watch my husband dispose of the slug that just crawled out from under my son's car seat that was airing outside while I cleaned his seat cover of vomit from earlier today. Yep, it's nasty. But that's life. At least it's getting cleaned of the vomit. Must mean I'm not so dirty or nasty. And I'm choosing to focus on what's good. 

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