This Fourth of July, we celebrated with a special kind of red, white and blue: red bloody knees, white bandages, and blue bruises. They even worked it so that they each wrecked the same knee within fifteen minutes of one another. Little Man crashed his bike, but Soccer Boy’s injury was a little more complicated.
Because we hit another milestone: their first real fight.
They’ve bickered before and even thrown balls “accidentally on purpose” at each other, but the tiffs were smoothed over easily.
This one was different. We were at my parents’ house, and I sent Little Man out to tell Soccer Boy that it was time to put the bikes in the car and leave for the fireworks. This devolved into Little Man chasing Soccer Boy through the yard with a plastic baseball bat. Soccer Boy was riding his bike, and his foot slipped off the pedal and he re-opened his cut on his knee.
They both came running inside, emphatically claiming it wasn’t their fault. Little Man was yelling, and Soccer Boy kept growling at him (and I think yelled some choice words at him in his own language).
After separating them and cleaning up the wound, I went to talk to Little Man.
Did you chase him with a bat?
“Yes, but it wasn’t my fault. I wouldn’t have chased him if he had gotten off his bike like he was supposed to and then he wouldn’t have gotten hurt. So it’s all his fault!”
But wouldn’t you say you contributed to the chaos? You actions amped up the situation and maybe made it worse? Even if you aren’t fully responsible, couldn’t you say that you each had a part? Like it was 50-50?
“More like 99% to 1%. And I am the 1%!!”
I laughed at that one. I couldn’t help it.
But isn’t that always the way? We overlook our own responsibility because it seems so small in comparison to the wrong done to us by someone else. But we are called to account and atone for our own parts in things even if the other person doesn’t take responsibility.
Even if that other person stands there miming that his bike was violently beaten by the bat and it caused him to fall to his near death and deeply wound his knee and his soul.
There’s certainly no shortage of a flair for the dramatic in this house!
But then Little Man yelled some truth my way.
“You always blame me for everything that happens! If any rules get broken, it’s my fault because I should have known better. It’s like I’m the older kid and I have to be perfect!”
Not the “always blame him” part, but the rest is pretty accurate.
In my efforts to show Christ to one child, I have not wanted the other to fail.
But we are all sinners. If we were all perfection, there would be no need for a Savior. Part of showing Christ—the part we often forget about—is showing his strength in our weakness.
Yes, Little Man is more responsible for knowing the rules—he’s had nine years to learn the expectations here. But he is not required to be perfect. I need to allow Little Man room to fail, to be imperfect.
He has been amazing this last week, stepping up in ways I never expected. In some ways, his maturity in those areas has thrown his immaturity and failures in other areas into sharper relief, and I have perhaps been overly frustrated by that.
But part of this experience is showing a child what a real family looks like. A real family isn’t perfect. It is in how we handle those imperfections that speak the loudest.
Little Man dug in his heels about giving an apology, and he needed some time to cool down from the seeming injustice of it all. So I let him be in a room for a while and Soccer Boy and I loaded the bikes in the car.
He mimed again his near-death experience.
I know, I told him. Little Man needs to say atvaino (sorry).
Soccer Boy mimed that he didn’t think he wanted to. He’s mad.
Ja, I said.
And at the same time, we pointed to our heads and mimed, he needs to think for a bit.
We nodded and smiled.
And I knew then that he was checking…testing the waters to see what my reaction would be. Would I hurt my child? Be angry and hateful? Punish him severely? Give him the silent treatment for days? Bring unwarranted and unattainable demands? Or let him off because he was “mine” and Soccer Boy was “other”? Was Soccer Boy valuable enough to be stood up for? Did wrongs done against him matter in this house?
So I went back in to talk to Little Man. Soccer Boy followed me into the room. I wished in a way that he hadn’t come, because I think correction is best done privately. But I also knew that he needed to see. He needed to know that I meant what I said, that we are different, and that he can trust me.
Little Man started to kick off a bit again, but quickly came to the point of asking Soccer Boy’s forgiveness, and they shook hands.
Imperfect members of an imperfect family, covered by His perfect love.