I'm not sure how we ended up at the mall together, my brother, sister-in-law and their three girls plus my two youngest and I. Elijah was at drama practice, Priscilla was downtown with my parents, our afternoon was unusually open, the weather was muggy, it was threatening to rain, and next thing I knew we were an hour from home scanning the aisles of Old Navy for back-to-school items.
I hadn't been to a mall in ages. It was surreal, I tell you, a real blast from the past, from when my junior high girlfriends and I would be dropped off for the afternoon to hang out at Wet Seal and Annie's Pretzels. Not much has changed in the last twenty-some years. The trendified high schoolers were still there, as was the food court and kiosks selling all sorts of weird junk.
Not much has changed, expect for me that is, all ancient (in mall years) and out of touch, and confused by the display windows featuring spandex pants and studded halter tops. And I have kids now, one boy in particular with energy to spare way interested in touching stuff, stuff like escalators. "Those aren't toys you know!" I was brusquely reminded by a mall cop. That's totally true, they aren't toys (and that's… One to Grow On) - not like Legos from the Lego store:
So fun to drool over, to pine over, until…uh oh, my young boy's ardent desire to bring home just one tiny Lego set becomes more than he can bear, inducing tears and passionate pleading. Too bad that young boy's mother has become, by that point, all malled out – has grown leery of the s-t-u-f-f for sale every where she turns. "Not today, buddy, she tells him." Sniff. Sniff. Sob. Sob, goes the boy. "Oh no, the green eyed monster got you!' says his cousins.
I am thankful from the bottom of my heart for those cousins, for their parents who support me in my ongoing struggle to balance empathy (Look, I for sure struggle too – just like my children – in this area) with tough love – the kind of love that reinforces early on the pitfalls of enslaving oneself to his or her passions, the downward emotional, spiritual, financial spiral born of an obsession with instant gratification. It feels like I'm swimming upstream sometimes, as a parent both unwilling, and unable, to keep up with the Joneses.
It takes a village to plant seeds of compassion, patience, self-control and contentment (with who they are and what they have) in a child. I'm too imperfect; I become easily discouraged and overwhelmed on my own. I need you, friends, Church family, flesh and blood family. I appreciate you more all the time for embracing me, and my kids, unconditionally, and for backing me up when I must make unpopular parenting decisions that may not be understood for years to come…maybe never. I appreciate you for making me laugh and for gently pointing me back (without condemnation) toward the one thing needful when I get distracted.
I raise my mall slushie to you! And I promise to try my best to buttress your salvific endeavors as you have fortified mine.
Peace to you, today!