The word was uttered. It wasn’t just a passing comment. He said it, and meant it. To his father … no doubt.

The infraction occurred on Saturday, after a suspiciously disrespectful evening with a sitter. Now, I know my kids are old enough to watch themselves. And thanks to MOAT friend Nancy, we’ve found a great way to compensate each child as incentive to steer clear of sibling altercations. They “watch” themselves better than any other sitter. In fact, when they sit for themselves, we even come home to a clean house (a sure-fire road to healthy tips). But the girls enjoy a sitter, so we capitulate as peace insurance (and a ticket to a worry-free evening away).

Not so much on Friday night, though. We walked in from our wonderful, blissful, romantic evening … okay, so maybe a bit revisionist history; but things outside of our house sure looked better than what we saw when we came inside. A huge mess of pillows thrown around the living room and a not so happy helper, ready to bolt, greeted us as we walked in the door (the tell-tale sign of an out-of-control evening).

Who was at fault? Couldn’t be determined. Was it as bad as it looked? Probably not … but to say we were disappointed was an understatement. I mean really. Can we not just leave for a few hours without WWIII breaking out?

Dad headed straight to the older kids to pontificate on the finer points of civil living – or to dole out a dose of “act your age” depending upon your perspective. One of the offenders began to cry. The other puffed up indignantly, denying any participation (an utterly preposterous position).

The latter would be the stubborn kid … the one who had “classic colic” as a baby (oh, the day the doctor informed me his incessant crying would last from 4-6 months, and that “colic” is a personality type, not stomach issues) … the one who would argue up is down and down is up – and die on his sword to prove it. The one who acts as if saying the words “I’m sorry” or “I’m wrong” equal a vile of arsenic.

Words were exchanged, edicts passed down, orders bellowed. I went to bed a bit sad. Maybe I was tired, but it was just so disappointing. The night passed and Saturday arrived.

As we got in the car on our way to lunch, Jon decided to once again hit home the lesson taught the night before. (Jon likes to remind us two or three times, just for good measure.) Stubby McStubborn dug in his heals, denying any and all participation, blaming the sitter (I’m not sure what for, but finger-pointing always seems like a good tactic), claiming victim status. That was enough for Jon who launched into a full-blown lecture. Good thing he was driving.

It might have looked something like this had they been facing each other.

“I didn’t do ANYTHING!” retorted Stubby
“That’s not the point! Your attitude is horrible and your tone unacceptable!”
Then from the back seat. Not a mumble. Not a whisper. But in a voice audible to all in the car … it came out of his mouth.
“Whatever.” accompanied by an audible eye-roll.

The car stopped. Turned around. Headed back home. The child and his dad exited the vehicle and the rest of us were instructed to go on to lunch and return later.

We prayed.  For both of them. Then did as directed. Enough said.

A few days later, I was driving the culprit to school.
“I can’t believe you said ‘Whatever’ … to your father.”
“I meant it.”
“What?!” I indignantly replied. I can’t imagine thinking, let alone saying “whatever” to my dad.
“I was right.”
“What does it have to do with being right?” I expound and continue … ahhh, nothing like a early morning berating to start your day with a bang. “It’s about respect. Respect for authority.”
I pause briefly, then get off that roll and hop onto a spiritual baguette. “Do you realize who put your father in authority over you? Yes. God. He was placed over you by God. So when you ‘whatever’ your dad… you’re ‘whatever’-ing God.”
“Are you sure you want to walk on that ground?” I implore.
“No.” he honestly replied.

I don’t know if this idea penetrated his stubborn exterior, but it’s true. The kid has had the opportunity for years to witness me doing the “s” word, even in situations when I just might have been “right”. Yes, “submit”. When I first began to genuinely respect my husband’s authority in our home, I struggled. Until I realized the great freedom in letting him lead and realized, that even though I’m following his leadership, I ultimately was submitting to God – and marriage as He ordained.

A kid has the same role in relation with his parents. If he could somehow rest in the fact that he’s respecting God by respecting his dad, I think it would all go much smoother. Plus, they would be happy. The thick altercation fog might wisp away… and I bet the stubborn just might disappear, too. It’s hard to fight being more right than the Almighty.

I’m just sayin’.

Thanks for walking the road with me.

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