When I moved to Florida in June 2006, I didn’t know a soul. To rectify that I joined two Bible studies and a MOPS group, and I ended up making some dear and lovely friends. One friend was my leader at Bible Study Fellowship; her name was Kathy, and she had two children who were late teens, maybe even early twenties. At the time, I was pregnant with Sam, Will was five, and Nate was three. Having a more seasoned mom speak into your life is so valuable. I greatly appreciated her perspective, but the thing I remember most about her is when she told a story about getting her son off to school when he was younger. She was lamenting how challenging it could be. She used to tell him, “you better watch it, you don’t want ‘the other mother’ to come.” Do you know the other mother? The mother you try to keep away, but whose ugly head can rear up and take over when domestic frustrations mount? Well, Nate does.
In fact, Nate’s other mother shows up pretty consistently between 8:20 and 8:35, Monday through Friday. The child is unbelievably frustrating. Like yesterday, he did his usual aimless wandering for about ten minutes, where he says that he is looking for something, but you can tell he doesn’t really know what he’s looking for. It’s some combination of not wanting to be out of bed, an inability to prioritize about the next step, and a stunning propensity to get sidetracked. How do I know this is what goes on? Because I’ve lived it for forty years. Nate and I are one, in so, so many ways. Poor baby.
But yesterday was particularly bad – he finally came downstairs in his usual disheveled state, with some grievance about something, and I then I noticed his uniform shirt.
“Nate,” I said, curtly. “Your shirt is dirty.”
He then argued that it was clean. Why he would make that argument when I am looking right at a dirty shirt, I don’t know. But that’s Nate.
I hustled around found him a new shirt, and even helped him put it on. I reminded him that “tucking in” a shirt does not mean tucking in just the two inches above the zipper of his pants. Not that I think this seven-hundredth reminder had any effect whatsoever.
Five minutes later, the new shirt had a huge, crumb-laden smear of butter across the front. If you took a piece of toast and rubbed it on your shirt, and tried really, really hard you might be able to get this much bread and butter on your shirt, but I doubt it. You aren’t Nate.
At this point “the other mother” arrived. Her loud and frustrated “C’MON, NATE! Help me out here,” brought a pitifully sad look to Nate’s face. But then he had a righteous zinger for me, which is not at all out of the ordinary.
“You know what I learned at church?” he asked. “I learned that you should treat others the way you want to be treated.”
I’m telling you he is the cutest, sweetest, most manipulative, smartest, most self-righteous, most infuriating, most lovable, most incredible nine-year-old that I’ve ever known. He is a bundle of contradictions, and I love him like crazy. Even though, at times, he makes me crazy.
Will you pray that I will take his advice and apply the golden rule, even in the witching, other-mother-inducing, half hour before school?
Jesus said, “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12 ESV). The rule is timeless, simple, and perfect, applying to every circumstance we will ever find ourselves in. But that doesn’t make it easy, does it?
I can proudly report that this morning, the other mother not only didn’t show up, I treated Nate just as I would want to be treated. Lord, help me each day and each hour, to live by Your Truth.