There’s a fine line we walk with those we love, those who receive the brunt of our bad moods, poor decisions, crazy whims and morning breath.
The line is hyper-vigilant on one side, lazy and uncaring on the other.
This is love: going around the sun again and again with the same people who could ruin your reputation with one Facebook post or phone call or Sunday morning announcement. The people who put up with us who put up with them who continue to drive home to one another and make love and war and a home and scattered bits of a beautiful life.
Following them around with the chore chart and honey-do list does not = love.
My family puts up with so much from me and still, I am tempted at each turn to point out every sharp edge – the shoes by the door, the dishes in the sink, the wet laundry sitting in the washer and the math books on the table.
The kitchen knife stuck in the fencepost?
I’m writing this from a hotel room with my youngest son. We are away for 3 days of Classical Conversations tutor training and science camp, and the three teens and my husband are home, four hours away, with no dinner plan.
This is me, smiling sheepishly and apologizing and also realizing that they are big people who can handle this. They could do tacos. There are burgers in the freezer. They are pretty good with quesadillas.
I gave a few instructions but mainly – put some spinach in your smoothies and let’s call it good.
I also left them in the lurch for transport to and from too many activities, left them to figure out how to make the final two gallons of milk last and who is going to get food for the lamb.
I am graceless and also I don’t always plan well and I expect that when I get home Wednesday night, they might give me a little grief over all that. But not too much.
I want to be prepared and well-planned and the do-it-all mother and wife of my dreams, but I’m just not.
Sometimes the shoes by the door are mine. Sometimes I leave my coffee cup in the living room. For days. Sometimes I leave my family with no groceries or casseroles or back-up plans, and no one follows me around with lists of things I already know I’m supposed to do.
It’s good to make mistakes I suppose. It helps me remember that my offspring are the same kind of human, the same falling short and in need of discipling type of people, as their mother. And their father.
This reminds me of two things:
1. People don’t need constant correcting.
I have grammar-police tendencies. It’s hard for me to read billboards and store displays and Facebook posts and not just cry inside.
Because God is just, every once in awhile I post something like your’s instead of yours, which is already possessive and requires no apostrophe. I do this by accident and for all the world to see because that’s the best way to make mistakes that humble me, and I’m thankful when nobody calls me out.
We know when we screw up. We know right and wrong, and sometimes we know we are just being lazy.
I can let you tell the story wrong because you forgot some detail or see some event differently from me. I can overlook the fact that we agreed to meet at 3pm but you showed up at 3:30. I can even choose to believe that you didn’t mean to be rude, to believe the best about you and your intentions, instead of calling you out and Matthew 18-ing you.
I can give you more grace than I deserve.
2. People who depend on you should be encouraged not to depend too much on you.
I think we should be people of our word and if we say I’m gonna do something we should do that thing we said, when we said, how we said. People ought to be able to depend on us.
But maybe we need to say fewer words. Commit to fewer things. Give our children swords.
After plenty of training and listing and chore-charting, maybe we need to leave the kids to figure out dinner and transportation and moderation and how to limit their own obligations and activities.
We can watch from a safe distance, counsel and forewarn.
We can also follow people around too much and trust too little that they are going to learn many good lessons in the same hard way we did – by making mistakes.
This is what I’m often telling my do-it-all husband, in the gentle way I do: say no. Give people two feet and the tools for the job, but don’t walk the whole way for them.
So, in the gentle way I do, I’m giving him an example by leaving him with three teens and no casseroles.
Linking up with the #TellHisStory gang