As three of the kids and I headed to a wonderful event at UBC farm, The Joy of Feeding, I carried Mica – new territory creates new stresses. Mica attended church this morning, and she had done her social output. It is actually quite interesting to see her figure out what spaces are “safe,” and when she needs more contact. She is amazingly wise in her assessments. She had run freely a bit and appropriately, and she had been held by us or had a sibling on each side when she needed that security. So I was happy to carry Mica for many reasons.
Around us on the path were other preschoolers running and walking. And a random stranger said directly to Mica, “You have two good legs; you can run too.” I literally took a deep breath, and responded as though I were Mica, “Well, I am new to Canada and every sight, smell, experience, person, sound is new to me, and may not be particularly safe to me. I will be carried so that I can experience new things safely.” Then the woman spoke to Mica, and asked, “Where are you from?” I answered. Now honestly I’m not wild about speaking for other people, but it was the only response I came up with in that moment.
As I retold Craig about the encounter, my fury and sarcasm surfaced. Just moments before, I had been in worship with the church, and the teaching had been from Philippians 2:1-5:
So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,
Really I was quite moved by the teaching, the stories, the application, and I desire to walk through life with humility. It just doesn’t always come naturally. I have been profoundly loved by Christ, and I want that love to overflow when I get bumped by other people. But here is what I also wanted to say, (RANT ALERT)
“I am a card carrying parent of four. This is the only child who I have actually been educated and trained to parent through several required formal classes as well as fourteen years of parenting practice with other children. While I may not know exactly what I am doing, much of my life and parenting is done with intentionality. Do you know this child’s story? Have you parented an adopted child? Have you parented a child in a new environment?”
Well, by giving voice to my anger, I realized that this is the third time in four days where an utter stranger has told me what to do with my child, so my anger had a bit of a domino effect too. (Friends and family please keep speaking into my life, asking questions; loving queries, even if they are corrective, sharpens and improves.) When Mikayla was a baby, random strangers offered lots of advice too. She was in the 5%ile of weight and 95% of length, and the entire city seemed certain I was starving her. I thought I was immune to the stranger “parenting advice” crew.
Then it occurred to me that we are out a bit more now. (Mica has had a cold most of the week, so we have not been out that much until the last few days.) People do not know that I am her parent, that she does not know English, and I will continue to need to set clear, polite, but clear boundaries.
So this morning’s teaching gave a great reminder of Christ’s deep love for me, and this afternoon’s anger gave a great reminder that I parent for my family’s benefit and not the approval of others.
Lord, help me walk humbly – whether I am carrying my child or not.