Kate Motaung grew up on the shores of Lake Michigan before spending ten years in Cape Town, South Africa. She is married to a South African and together they have three children. Kate is the author of the e-book, Letters to Grief, hosts the Five Minute Friday blog link-up, and has contributed to several other online publications. She blogs at Heading Home and can be found on Twitter @k8motaung.
He’d been in our home for a week. We had a three-and-a-half year-old girl and an eighteen month-old boy when we added to our family through adoption. My husband’s orphaned cousin was almost seven when he came to live with us.
Becoming the mom of a six-year-old was a steep learning curve, to say the least. I’m talking sink or swim.
A week in, and he was bouncing a beach ball in the living room. I did a quick visual scan of the room and a quicker mental calculation, and wagered that the beach ball wasn’t a major source of concern. After all, there was really only one breakable thing within range: an ostrich egg lamp with Africa etched into the shell. My mom bought it for me when she visited Cape Town for my 21st birthday, and I loved it.
It should be fine, I reasoned. Besides, even if it gets knocked, ostrich eggs are hardy. It’s a beach ball. The lamp’ll be fine.
Large pieces of ostrich egg shell decorated the carpet.
In that split second, the weight of my upcoming reaction flashed before me in full color. I was keenly aware that I had a choice, and my decision could have lasting implications.
The way I saw it, I had two options:
1) Get upset about the lamp, rant about how valuable it was to me, and make sure everyone knew how disappointed I was that it was broken; or
2) Share my disappointment in a reasonable, gentle tone, then shake it off as “no big deal,” because it’s just a lamp. Besides, I hadn’t even told my son to stop bouncing the ball.
I’ve shared this before, but I’ll say it again: In our house, I strive to keep material goods in a healthy perspective. In the big picture, if things get damaged and people are upset, I usually say, “I’m sorry that you’re disappointed. I would be, too. But .. let’s try to remember that we can’t take it to heaven with us anyway.”
This particular incident, when the beach ball met the ostrich lamp, was a keen teaching moment in our home. Whether I intended it or not, all three of my kids were learning by watching my reaction. I’m thankful to report that the Lord really helped in those moments, and enabled me to diminish my disappointment. He helped me show my kids that worldly possessions are only temporary. They’re not eternal.
My kids’ souls, on the other hand, are eternal.
It was our new son’s first week in our home, and he soaked everything up like a sponge. If I’d reacted in anger as soon as the lamp hit the floor, he would’ve soaked up the message that things are more important than people. He would’ve filed away the unspoken assumption that I loved the lamp more than I loved him.
Looking back, I’m so grateful that God guided me through this pivotal parenting moment. Six years later, when similar situations rise to the surface, I still think back to that day and use the mental notes as a guideline. Obviously I don’t always get it right, but this memory often floats to the forefront of my mind and helps me keep my priorities straight.
What memorable, teachable parenting moments have you experienced, and what did you learn from them?