If you were a fly on the wall at my house, you'd be sure to hear your share of fussing, complaining and whining. Maybe even a slammed door or two.

But enough about me.

In the pressure cooker that's parenting, I have exploded more than once. And it's harder to clean up than spaghetti night with a toddler.

So after years spent indulging in fruitless self-flogging, I finally let go of my obsession with getting it all 'just right.' I confess...I'm not a perfect parent.

Whew. That felt good.

Now, when my son saunters in with his 42nd tardy of the school year, I let it go. When I hear myself hollering "Whatever!" at my teenage daughter, I move on.

Having it all together is overrated anyway.

And I've determined not to waste God's grace. I'll never get it just right. You won't, either. So read on, sister. If you see a little of yourself in me, I hope it helps to know that you're not alone. Nope. If you're a mom, face it. You're never, ever alone.

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Monday, September 14, 2009

The Opposite Attracts

I was miffed.

Last week, I made a trip all the way across town to sign some paperwork that required notarization. I had called the day before to make sure that it would be ready and a notary would be in the office.

“Oh yes. A notary will be here. You just come right on in.”

So on a very busy day, I made the 25-minute trek to a very out-of-the way office building.

Lost paperwork, miscommunication and general frustration had been my typical experience with this particular establishment. But ever the optimist, I actually believed (silly woman!) that I might actually be able to accomplish this task in an efficient manner.

When I arrived and explained the reason for my visit, the woman looked at me with a pleasant but blank stare.

This did not bode well.

“I’m just a temp, honey. Now what did you need?”

Oh boy … The words “I’m just a temp” were not inspiring much confidence. I believe I have just wasted a lot of very expensive gasoline.

Still, after a deep breath, I again explained in painstaking detail the reason for my visit.

Another sweet, but blank stare. “Uh, well, I’ll look around here, sweetheart. I don’t see anything like that.”

“You’re not a notary either, are you?”

“Oh no, only Martha’s a notary and she’s out until Monday.”

I could feel my blood pressure rising.

“Okay, well, I called yesterday and was assured that both the paperwork and a notary would be here. So I made a special trip across town to take care of this and now there’s no paperwork and no notary?”

Someone clearly doesn't realize how important I am.

“Well, it sure sounds like you had a good plan there, darlin’,” she said sincerely. “I don’t know who you talked to, but she was misinformed. I’m so sorry you made this trip for nothing. That really is a shame. But is there anything else I can do for you while you’re here?”

She said it so genuinely and with such warmth that I couldn’t help but smile back and thank her as I left the office.

Wait a minute! What just happened here? I'm supposed to be angry! I’ve wasted valuable time and got absolutely nothing accomplished! I oughta be making someone pay!

But, despite, my best efforts, I couldn’t muster up the anticipated level of aggravation.

Why? Because the opposite attracts. She met my frustration with courtesy and kindness. She returned my irritated tone with softness and a smile.

Even though I didn’t get what I wanted, she sucked me in and made me feel like my time was valuable and my frustrations were understood.

Oh, if I only did a better job of doing this with my children.

Our children can be downright defiant and hostile. They can throw around words that pierce the heart like daggers.

I admit it. I have a sarcastic tongue. My human inclination is to launch a few wicked word weapons myself.

And I have – more times than I’d care to share.

If I'm not careful, the casualty becomes the bond I'm working so hard to establish.

Yet, in those moments when God enables me to respond with the opposite emotion, I give softness, instead of sarcasm and patience instead of pride. I can discipline without demoralizing. And I can respond without retribution. The results are sometimes downright miraculous. A soft spirit is contagious.

Because in parenting -- or pesky paperwork -- responding with the opposite emotion is always the main attraction.

He does not punish us for all our sins; he does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve. For his unfailing love toward those who fear him is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth. Psalm 103:10-11


  1. Wow, what a powerful post, and so timely. Thank you so much for posting this!

  2. You are so right - even Proverbs says this "A gentle answer turns away wrath - but a harsh word stirs up anger." Proverbs 15:1

    I have been working on gentleness as a mother for over 5 months and it has completely changed the mood of our home - it's a wonderful thing!!!

    GREAT post!

  3. Oh what a good post! I wonder if God gets tired of responding kindly to my tirades. At times that's harder to do with your own children, I remember, yes, I'm not that old YET!! :)

    Good one Melinda.

  4. Great post, Melinda!

    i am sarcastic too...and my kids have learned it from me. What I need to make sure I teach them now is that there is a time and place for witty comments, but no place for cutting ones.

    I absolutely believe what we read throughout proverbs...that there is so much power in our words. thanks for the reminder!

  5. Ahhh. They say you catch more flies with honey than vinegar. Or whatever that saying is! I too have a hard time being mean to someone who's so sweet. Maybe that's the key to good customer service. Just remain calm and always smile.

  6. I needed these words today.
    Thank you.

    <3 sarasophia


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