Some parts of me don’t want to publish this post. Mostly, I’m afraid I’ll come across as pretentious and boastful–like I want everyone to praise my shining example of modern parenthood.
But, I think I can trust you to believe that’s not my goal… (Right?)
Then another part worries I’ll lose some of the beauty of this memory, upon releasing it to dozens of others who may or may not understand the significance. I don’t want to break the spell by dropping a huge chunk of my soul into the cold abyss of the Internet, alongside all the opinions and prejudices and criticisms.
But something amazing happened tonight--and I’m not whole unless I write through an experience.
What’s a beautiful moment, unless you have the freedom to recount it? Doesn’t everybody want to tell their favorite stories over and over, to whoever will listen?
So that’s what I’m going to do now; tell my story. It’s only a few hours old, and already one of my favorites…
This is my best word-for-word transcript of the conversations I had with my 3-year-old daughter after my exercise class, when I picked up she and her brother from the playroom at the YMCA.
Me: Look at my face. This is an ANGRY face. I’m very, very unhappy with the way you’ve been acting. Your teachers told me you had three time-outs! And then you ran away from Mommy when I told you to come back and put your coat on. What’s the matter with you?!
Cami: See that little girl, Mommy?
Me: No, I’m not looking at the other little girl right now. I’m looking at YOU–because I’m talking about all the bad choices you’re making. I don’t know where your brains are, but they aren’t in your head… We have to ask Jesus to help you focus and be a good girl.
As we walked to the car, Cami announced that Jesus helped her change her attitude and she was ready to be a good girl. I told her we would still have to talk to her dad about what happened, but usually this would be the near-end of the conversation. She really was trying to behave, so I don’t know why I didn’t leave it there. I can’t explain why I said what I did next…
Me: Well, we have a problem, Cami. You really deserve a spanking when we get home.
Cami: What?! No! No, I don’t want a spanking!
Me: I know…but you did lots of things that you know are naughty. And, when people do things that are wrong, there has to be a punishment. Somebody has to take the consequences…
Cami: But, no! (*starting to sniffle*) I don’t want a spank! I’m being a good girl!
Me: Yes, you are being a good girl now. But what about the punishment? Who will get a spanking if you don’t get it?
Cami: Just, nobody! Nobody can have a spanking!
Me: That’s not how it works, baby girl. When we do bad things, there are consequences. SOMEBODY has to get a punishment.
We sat in silence for a couple of minutes, while I drove home. And, eventually, we got distracted by songs on the radio and playing with her baby brother. But when we pulled into our garage, Cami remembered the situation.
Cami: Am I still getting a spank, Mommy?
Me: Let’s take our things in the house first. But, then it’s almost Spanking Time.
Cami: *sadly* But I’m being gooooooood!
(We go inside.)
Me: The problem is, you already made the bad choices to slam your brother’s hand and not say sorry when your teacher asked. And then you laughed and made us tell you three times to put away the toy. And then you ran away and hid from me. That’s a lot of things that you already did wrong! Who’s going to pay the punishment for all of that stuff?
Me: Does Collin deserve to be punished?
Cami: *hesitantly* Y-y-y-yeah.
Me: You want me to give the spanking to Collin?! Even though he didn’t do anything wrong…? You know it will make him cry, right? Are you sure you want Mommy to spank your baby brother?
(I stood up and walked toward the baby, so I could show his sweet, smiling face to her–but she jumped up and yelled.)
Cami: No! Don’t spank Collin!
Me: Who deserves to be spanked?
Cami: Just…(*desperately*) just…nobody!
Me: Maybe the cats should get the spanking? Were THEY naughty?
Cami: No… (*sadly*) I did.
Me: Who deserves the spanking?
Cami: Me. I. Me. (*sniffling*)
Me: You were naughty?
Cami: Uh-huh… (*sniffs again*) But… (*almost whispering*) I don’t want a spank!
Now that I had the official confession, I walked across the room and knelt in front of her. Very carefully–making sure she looked in my eyes–I told her:
I don’t want you to get a spank either.
She looked both hopeful and a little confused for a split second before I continued:
So, tonight, MOMMY is going to take your punishment.
And, before she could wrap her mind around my words, I slapped my own hand with 2-3 cracks.
That tenderhearted baby immediately burst into tears…
No, Mommy! No, No! (*sobbing*) Noooo!
Obviously, I wrapped her in my arms… and then I rocked back and forth, shushing as I stroked her hair. We cried together for a couple of minutes. And, when the moment passed, I grabbed her face and said, “I love you. Now it’s done! So, let’s eat dinner.”
And we did…
It wasn’t until we were climbing the stairs for bed more than an hour later that she asked me a question out of the blue, letting me know her wheels were still turning.
Cami: Why would you smack yourself, when you didn’t do anything wrong?
Me: Because I wanted you to know what Jesus did for us. Jesus took our punishment. He loved us soooo much, that he wanted to keep us from hurting. But SOMEBODY had to pay for all the naughty things we do all the time. I know this is hard for a little girl to understand. But I wanted to show you how much I love you and how much JESUS loves you, too… Know what I mean?
Cami: (*nods and smiles*) Yes! But did you like it?
Me: No, it hurt! I don’t like being hurt. But I didn’t want you to be hurt, either.
Cami: So you took my spanking! You took MY spanking, so I didn’t have to get spanked!
Me: I think you got it… and how did it make you feel?
Me: It made you happy. But it also made you cry. Why did you cry?
Cami: Because… (*starting to tear up again*) Because I didn’t want you to get spanked either. Because I love you.
Oh, man, rip my heart out why dontcha, kid? 🙂
Cami: (*suddenly smiling*) We can tell Daddy!
Me: What are you going to tell him?
Cami: We’re going to tell him “Mommy took my punishment.”
And thus, she moved straight into the “Great Commission,” even without being taught that part of the lesson. That’s right, Girl! Go on and share that Good News!
God, give me the wisdom to keep sharing the Gospel with this brilliant and amazing child.