Antique Childhood

Impulse Does Not Come With Reverse

And now, time for a pointless story. Oh wait. They are all pretty much pointless.  Very well then.

So then, the other day Sean dropped a gummy bear on the floor. He picked it up and started to put it in his mouth.  In keeping with Section 2, Article 4, Paragraph 3.5 of the Mothering Handbook, I instructed him not to eat it and to put it in the trash instead.  I’m not one to freak out about that kind of thing too much. I’ve been known to eat a potato chip or two off the floor, but it’s right there in the handbook and I’m working towards my mothering merit badge.

He looked at me for a split second and then popped it in his mouth and quickly swallowed it. And then continued to look at me without so much as blinking.

Now, according to the same handbook, this was a clear health and safety violation, meaning when one goes against mama, they are risking their health and safety.

But I let him off the hook.  I gave him a light scolding for disobedience and a small lecture about how one probably shouldn’t eat stuff off the floor, citing the episode on Myth Busters where Jamie and Adam debunk the five-second rule. And I let it go at that.

Normally, when Sean is blatantly disobedient, correction is swift and certain. But on that day I saw something of myself in that little gummy gobbling boy. I was reminded that sometimes at that age, the things we do are less a result of disobedience so much as that we are victims of the laws of forward motion. Sometimes, we want to be obedient, we want to be good, we do.  It’s just that we are unable to stop an impulse that has already fired — a lot like trying to put a speeding bullet back in the gun.

When I was in about the third grade, I was walking between two rows of desks from the front of the class room towards the back. Just before I got to David Kruger’s desk, a paper he was working on slid off his desk and floated this way and then that before it settled on the floor.

Now David was a very meticulous sort of guy, from his crew cut to the way he always colored in the lines.  Well, there was David’s paper on the floor and I could have probably stepped over it, but for some reason, a reason I still don’t understand, I stepped right on his paper leaving a big dusty footprint.

And it’s not that I was bad or mean, unless you were to ask one of my brothers, it was just that I was caught up in forward motion and I couldn’t stop myself. And I have to tell you, to this day, I can still see that paper lying on the floor with my footprint on it and I still feel badly about it.  Sometimes being able to remember everything that ever happened to you is a curse.

Naturally David wailed at the injustice. “Aaak! She stepped on my paper!” he bawled with all due indignation.

The teacher looked up from her desk. I did my best impression of innocence. And because she was probably down to her last nerve and more interested in peace than justice, she suggested to David that I probably didn’t do it on purpose.

Oh sweet undeserving grace and mercy how I adore thee.

“Yes she did!” he gasped, “She looked right at me and stepped on my paper!” It was true. I did. And I did it without so much as blinking.  He was aghast. He look at me and then back at the teacher in disbelief.  His face was red.  I shrugged my shoulders and walked back to my seat, probably not even offering an apology.

So David, I want to apologize. I’m sorry. I didn’t want to step on your paper. I just couldn’t exactly stop myself.

And neither could Sean which is why he got sweet undeserving grace and mercy as opposed to time out.

* * *

Speaking of obedience, I’m over here too if you are following the on-line Bible study.

30 thoughts on “Impulse Does Not Come With Reverse

  1. Hmmm I wonder how many uncomfortable memories this will stir? How many apologies will be offered up today?

    * * *
    Ha! By me or others? My “apologies owed” list is pretty long…

  2. Mike R: I’m sorry for the answer I changed to be WRONG on the paper I was grading of yours when we were in second grade. I was just tired of you always making 100s. (And I’m appalled, as a teacher myself now, that a second grade teacher would let students grade each other’s papers!)
    Never the less: I hope it did not keep you out of any college you wanted to go to.

  3. At night, I sometimes stay awake thinking of things I did wrong during the day, and I cringe when “sometimes” I could have stopped myself and I didn’t. There is also a kind of liberation when we do what we know is not what we should do. If it’s something trivial, of course…

  4. My mother’s handbook is clearly outdated. My kids learnedd to count to ten based on the Ten Second Rule – Food on the Floor. My brother’s kids got twenty seconds “Army brats, you know,” he’d say as he blew dust off their suckers and popped them back in their mouths. Those extra ten seconds made him so much more relaxed.

    Now I will spend my day making a list of people to whom I owe an apology. Of course, it will take all day so I won’t be cleaning bathrooms afterall.

  5. Urgh. I was just remembering one the other day: I was in 2nd grade, by myself in the reading corner, chanting “Ten Ton Tammy, Ten Ton Tammy” over and over (picked up from the other kids, not made up myself). Not because I had anything against Tammy, I just liked the alliteration, how it rolled off the tongue.

    Next thing I know, there’s poor Tammy looking at me, and it comes to me in a flash that this phrase ISN’T just fun syllables, it has a hurtful meaning. I felt awful, but had no clue what to say, and just avoided the girl forever. I’m sorry, Tammy Dupre!

  6. I loved your tag “Antique Childhood” because I have one of those too. I went to a 3-room schoolhouse for first grade only. There were 6 kids in my first grade class! My sister sat across the room with the third-graders. Anyway, one day the teacher called me up to the blackboard to write something. I don’t know what got into me, but I just looked at her and said, “No.” She asked me again and, once again I said, “No.” She looked at my sister and asked her if my mom was driving the carpool that day and, as luck would have it, she was. Needless to say, I got in BIG trouble that day.

    It was the first of many defiant moments for me, I’m sorry to say.

  7. That’s a very good observation. I know I’ve seen that with my own kids a whole bunch of times, and I’ve fallen victim to it myself even as an adult. Not that it is an excuse for defiance or wrong behavior, but that it’s a natural human tendency, and is more prevalent in some than in others.

    The challenge as parents is to assist our kids in fostering the ability to override forward momentum when it is necessary.

  8. *gulp*

    I’m sure there are many moments like this in my life that I’ve forgotten or chosen to forget. But my runaway mouth is usually at the center of it. I’m quick to make someone laugh, quick to make funny sarcastic observations, but I’m just as quick to cut one down if the right (wrong?) button is pushed. It’s probably my biggest sin and one I struggle with all the time.

    * * *
    You and I are identical in that regard MM. Some of my buttons seem to have a hairline trigger. ~AM

  9. You know you can almost see and feel that little imp perched on your shoulder egging you on and saying:
    “psst….go ahead… it”

    Reminds me of when Flip Wilson used to say, “The Devil made me do it!”

    Not an excuse but we’ve all been naughty at least once.

  10. I had to come back to the comments again to see the confessions. I also remember being a five year old and telling my Sunday School teacher, “NO!” when asked to do something. He turned to his assistant and said, “That’s it. I’m done.” And he never came back to teach Sunday School. Wow. The power of a five year old. Somehow, this 40 year plus memory does not make me feel guilty. Makes me think that grown man should have toughened up, and (as Dr. James Dobson says, “Won and won decisively.”)…Time gives perspective.

  11. I’ve little doubt had I access to your perspectives when my boys were small, I would have been a better parent – primarily by seeing myself more clearly.

    Therefore, I also doubt very many of your blogs are pointless; they all seem to take on a life of their own in the hearts/minds of your readers…most to good effect.

  12. Having a child for me often means looking at my own reflection.
    Do you also adhere to Section III, Article 1, Paragraph 2.7 that states “If said offense will not matter a hill of beans in two days, don’t sweat it.” ?
    I often wonder exactly how I would live if no one were watching. I know for sure I wouldn’t shave my legs and I’d declare pretty much all foods finger foods.

  13. Little injustices we either did as a child or received while a child seem to stick forever. They don’t serve as major life threatening just as stuck – iritating or is it irritating?.

  14. It’s just as well I’m not a parent. I would have interpeted that as deliberate defiance and whammed him on his pants. (Once, with my open hand.)

    My parents were from the pants-whamming school of child-“rearing.”


  15. Most of my parenting days are spent overcoming my initial response, that look and feeling of rebelling just that little bit. Thanx for another wonderful, pointed post that makes me smile and think – happy week!

  16. Hmm. Maybe it’s being a slightly more “mature” mommy that brings about these kinds of realization? Because I sure as heck see SO much of myself in my boy. And as soon as I open my mouth to fuss, God plants a big ol’ picture of me, doing the exact same thing, right in front of me. Takes all of the wind out of my sails! I still have to discipline, but yes, mercy and grace LIVE at my house; I’m considering getting kittens and naming them that just so I can see it in the flesh!

  17. I was just thinking about a boy from Jr. High that I want to apologize to. He’s actually my friend on Face Book. I should, I really should.

    Oh what have you done to us… This may go down as Repentance Monday.

  18. Once, while being disciplined for being mean to her little sister, my older daughter implusively reached out and pulled her sister’s hair. I remember those same impulses when I was a child and angry at one of my siblings. I just couldn’t help myself, even under my mother’s glare.

    As for the food falling on the floor…my daughters gross me out all the time. Picture the lunchroom floor of a middle school. Ewww.

  19. Oh my… this is somewhat of an “a-ha” moment for me today because you’ve articulated so well what I struggle with often as a parent… discerning true defiance or just being human, especially the little kind!

    I am very impulsive myself… and am quick to scold my children when they don’t stop themselves quickly enough (ie, immediately at the sight of me or sound of my voice)… but in reality most of the time they just can’t.

    Thanks for your post!

  20. My son is 4 1/2 years old and we recently had a conversation about why he did something he knew he wasn’t supposed to do. He told me that he wants to behave but sometimes he can’t help himself. I was so surprised by his self awareness that I was nearly speechless.

  21. Have you every considered doing parenting workshops? Seriously. Grace and Mercy. Having it is such a wonerful blessing. Knowing how to give it freely to others not always so easy. Thanks for sharing what God is teaching you. …Always real. Blessings.

  22. I don’t think that was pointless at all…I like your thoughts on impulse. This is something for me to think about with my little ones.

  23. And that’s what makes you an amazing mom–the ability to not only put yourself in your son’s shoes, but also remember clearly what it was like to be a child. That’s a rare trait.

  24. Ouch…I had one of those moments with my 5yo this morning. We are working on him with obedience because lately he’s been thinking that he should obey on HIS time and not ours. I partly showed him grace this morning because I felt like he needed it and partly because I needed it. That Momma Handbook is a bugger!

  25. I fully agree with you on the momentum aspect of civil disobedience.

    I also believe that, for those of us who obey the rules most of the time, and generally exercise good judgment in our behavior… that there is a little mechanism inside us that forces us to break the rules occasionally. Not in a sneaky, behind-someone’s-back sort of way (which tends to be pre-meditated and well-planned), but in that spontaneous, instantaneous fashion you describe so well. Every now and again it is good to rebel. Maybe it has something to do with self-assertion. (Or maybe it just is what it is, lol.)

  26. Oh poop. I just reminded myself of the time I threw my BFF Karen’s mitten down the outhouse hole at Girl Scout Camp. For no good reason.

    Drat that remorse.

    On another note, around here, Gummy Bears are regularly eaten off of the floor. Unless they are covered in ants and/or hair. Then they require a light rinsing.

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