A few weeks ago, one of my tutoring kids informed me that she had not gone to school that morning because she had thrown up. We have a rule that kids who don’t go to school because they were sick cannot come to tutoring in the afternoon, even if they insist that they feel better. I pulled back to her house and had her go back in, at which point her parents and her sister began yelling out the door that she was all better and that she could go. Her dad came out to the van and he was clearly agitated, but he began to take it out on his son, who was in the van. He insisted that his son had come when he had been sick, and when his son protested, he yelled, “Shut up! You don’t know what you’re talking about!” and sort of lunged at him. It was very startling and somewhat frightening for me, not to mention for his son. And I confess I drove off thinking, “Man, what is their deal? It’s a simple rule, trying to keep kids from making other kids sick. There’s no need to get that mad, and certainly no need to yell violently at your son.” And I thought about how much better I was than him.
Fast forward to today. Eliza had a fever last night, but this was her last week of pre-school, and today was a special day where they were going to play water games outside in their bathing suits. She has already been sad to leave her class at the end of the week, and so we didn’t want her to miss out. We gave her some Motrin and headed to school, but when I told her teacher that she’d had a fever last night, she told me that there was a policy where kids had to be 24-hours fever-free to come (and it killed her to tell me that, I could tell). And while I didn’t show it right then, I was angry. Very angry. Eliza was upset and crying, not understanding why she couldn’t stay, and I hurt for her. It seemed unfair, and I wanted to be able to make my own rules, to be the exception. I slammed the door of the van and drove off, seething in my heart.
And as I drove down the street, I remembered that day at tutoring, and I discovered the same anger in me that had been in that father. I discovered the same protectiveness of my kids, and the same desire to have the rules bent for me. And part of the difference between me and him is that I know how to not show my anger, to not take it out on my kids (at least when others are watching).
I hope that another part of the difference is that somewhere in the midst of my natural reaction is the Spirit of Jesus, bringing self-control to bear when all I want to be is angry. And I long for that dad to have Christ in his life, because I see that his anger can be quick, violent, and frightening, and I wish his children did not have to bear the brunt of that.