I was gonna get it when I got home.
I sat at my desk for the last few hours of the day thinking about how much trouble I would be in later that day when my parents found out what I had done.
And ten demerits?!?!
I’d never seen that many before.
But when you cuss another fifth grader out on the playground, that’s what happens.
You get the book thrown at you.
There was no avoiding my parents finding out.
When my dad picked me up from school, my teacher asked to talk to him briefly so she could make sure he knew about my infarction. He walked back to the car with his shoulders a little lower and a look of perplexity shadowing his brows.
We drove home in silence.
I knew what I had done.
He now knew what I had done too.
But neither one of us I suppose knew where to begin in addressing it.
Finally Daddy said, “Chrystal… why?”
“I don’t know Daddy.”
He shook his head and said, “That’s not good enough. There has got to be a reason. This isn’t like you.”
This isn’t like you.
That’s true. It wasn’t.
I was a typical goody-two shoes. I made straight A’s and was usually the teacher’s pet. It was important to me to make my parents proud and to be the best that I could be in everything that I did.
I didn’t even know how to use curse words right. But in a moment in which I felt the need to express myself, the word (or words… I’m not sure) came out with a vengeance and the kids on the playground made sure to tell and get me in trouble.
As I reminisced on my actions earlier that day, it became more clear to me what might have happened.
“Daddy, there was a girl who was being mean to me. I hadn’t done anything to her and she was just picking on me. She wouldn’t stop and I just wanted her to know that I wasn’t a push over and that I wasn’t scared of her or anybody else.”
My Dad breathed a bit of a sigh of relief partially, I’m sure, because I had given him something he felt he could work with.
“So you decided to do something that was not in your character and that felt good in the moment. You chose to act outside of who you are.”
“Yea Daddy. I think so.”
In a moment of adolescent emotion, I decided not to align my attitudes and actions with my beliefs and in that moment, I experienced the separation of self from situation.
A break of my person from my path.
And while my father would not let me slide on my poor behavior, he was ultimately more interested in what led me to the place of improper conduct in the first place.
I remember this day, not for my excursion into foul language but for the gentleness and wisdom with which my Dad handled my wrong.
He talked to me. He asked why. He dealt with my behavior but he did not make my me a sum total of my mistake. He was more interested in the real me than he was in his own reputation.
And I knew it.
I knew he cared about my heart, my soul, my relationship with him and my relationship with God. There was no need for me to cower in unnecessary elongated shame because once we dealt with my heart and the boundary line I had crossed, I still felt his love and acceptance of me.
Thirty years later, I remember clearly how my father loved me, disciplined me, talked to me, and coaxed me back to the person he knew I was capable of being.
As your kids shock you with behavior you don’t recognize, attitudes that surprise, or actions that make your shoulders droop just a tad, don’t forget the most important thing…
Their heart. Your love.
Chrystal Evans Hurst, ChrystalEvansHurst.com