My children and I were shopping at a busy Wal-Mart after school. As we searched high and low for the graham crackers, we overheard a woman nearby scolding her two young daughters. They’d clearly had enough of the shopping expedition and were beginning to whine and complain. The exasperated mother bent down to their level and threatened, “If you don’t behave right now, then The Lady Who Owns Wal-Mart is going to come and take you away!”
My daughter nudged me and rolled her eyes. I decided to use this encounter as a “teaching moment” to tell my children that a parent needs to rely on his or her own authority for discipline. It is foolish and weak to threaten children with consequences from anonymous strangers. As I pointed out, what will this mother do when the girls are teenagers?
Later that day, I posted a summary of the incident on my Facebook page. I always find it interesting that few people comment on or “Like” the wonderful links to great Catholic resources that I share on Facebook, but I can generate a lively discussion on an inane topic like laundry.
As expected, the Wal-Mart incident prompted comments like “How lame,” or “I can’t stand that type of parenting,” etc. Yet one comment immediately caught my attention. A very devout Catholic friend wrote, “How about ‘All that we do should give glory to God, who loves us more than we can ever imagine.’” My first thought was dismissive: “Why can’t she just lighten up? Not everything has to be about religion!”
That evening, I kept pondering my friend’s comment, her words echoing in my thoughts. When I mentally replayed the Wal-Mart incident, I realized that I had experienced similar moments of parental stress when my children were little. I had even once threatened my son with consequences from “The Man Who Drives the Big Tractor,” an anonymous construction worker who drove a tractor through our neighborhood.
That poor mother in Wal-Mart needed a kind word or a prayer offered up for her, not condescension and scorn. Why did I think I was such a perfect parent when I had done the same thing? What type of person am I if I feel compelled to post a stranger’s humiliation on Facebook to provoke comments?
I further reflected on the many times that I had shown weakness in public. If only someone had smiled sympathetically, spoken a gentle word of encouragement or offered a silent prayer, I might have calmed down and pulled myself together.
My trip to Wal-Mart did include a “teaching moment,” but the lesson was meant for me. I resolve to live my life based on sound advice from a friend who wisely knows that everything IS “all about religion” if all that we do gives glory to God, who loves us more than we can ever imagine.