Thursday, August 1, 2013

Watch Your Mouth!

Recently I took my children to the local community swimming pool for family swim.  While my older children wanted to swim inside in the big pool, my younger two daughters opted to stay outside and play in the wading pool.  My girls hopped in the pool and started playing in the water as I settled into the lawn chair I brought and pulled out my math book to start studying. Not two minutes later a young boy, about 8 or 9 years old, stepped out of the pool and approached who I believe to be, his mother sitting on a bench holding another small son about the age of 2.  My head turned as I, and the other few adults and children who were in ear shot of the argument, heard this young boy screaming at his mother and using foul language at her, all over a piece of gum, from what I could tell.  Now, being a mother myself, I can empathize with any other mom who finds herself in such a situation where her child has become irrational, especially in public. I immediately say to myself, "Been there, done that, you're not alone", etc, etc. But this was not any kind of bickering back-and-forth that I had ever been witness too.

After the boy finished his tirade about the gum, the mom decided that his behavior deemed it necessary for them to leave the pool. I would have done the same thing. But what disturbed me the most, was not so much how the boy was behaving, but rather the mother. It was obvious she tried to remain calm in the beginning, and I imagine she was embarrassed, (any mom would have been) but her voice was raising and she was losing control. She began to tell her son what a "retard" he was. I heard her call him that two times in a matter of about sixty seconds. I was appalled. My heart tugged for the young boy whose ears took in such language from his mother. While I thought in the beginning she must have been embarrassed with her son's actions, she at all didn't seem to think twice about using such words to express her anger to her son, for all around her to hear.

Now I am not here to judge whether or not she is a good mother. We all have our sour moments we wish we could take back. I had never seen these people before, I have no idea what their family life is like. It is not up to me to determine worthiness on the part of the boy's mom. But I can say I did take away some very valuable insights as I was privy to this scene.

I couldn't help but think and reflect upon the verbal messages I am sending to my own children. Did I feel sorry for the boy? Absolutely. I feel badly for the mother too. Perhaps she is stretched to her limits, stressed to the max, maybe she's never spoken that way before and just snapped and was terribly sorry afterwards. It's not important for me to know those details. But hearing the shouting match occur as it did really made me think of my own verbal usage towards all my children. Are the words I'm saying and expressing to them uplifting? Are they encouraging? Can I be firm? Yes. But can I do so in a loving way? I had better.

I am in no way a prime example of absolute loving-kindness towards my children every second of every day. I know there are areas I can work on and improve. I know that I myself have a short fuse. But I also know that my children were given to me from a loving Heavenly Father for me to raise and to do so in respect, kindness, honor, compassion and most of all love.  I recently read an article by Jeffrey R Holland, a leader in our LDS church, about this very subject. In his article, The Tongue of Angels, he says the following:

"In that same spirit we speak to the sisters as well, for the sin of verbal abuse knows no gender. Wives, what of the unbridled tongue in your mouth, of the power for good or ill in your words? How is it that such a lovely voice which by divine nature is so angelic, so close to the veil, so instinctively gentle and inherently kind could ever in a turn be so shrill, so biting, so acrid and untamed? A woman’s words can be more piercing than any dagger ever forged, and they can drive the people they love to retreat beyond a barrier more distant than anyone in the beginning of that exchange could ever have imagined. Sisters, there is no place in that magnificent spirit of yours for acerbic or abrasive expression of any kind....."

This really hit home to me. It made me more determined to do my absolute best to make sure that the words coming from my mouth are angelic, and not abusive.  I can only imagine what the young boy at the pool must have been thinking of himself as he heard what his mother was calling him. Elder Holland continues on saying:

"We must be so careful in speaking to a child. What we say or don’t say, how we say it and when is so very, very important in shaping a child’s view of himself or herself. But it is even more important in shaping that child’s faith in us and their faith in God. Be constructive in your comments to a child—always. Never tell them, even in whimsy, that they are fat or dumb or lazy or homely. You would never do that maliciously, but they remember and may struggle for years trying to forget—and to forgive."

I have not been able to get this recent incident out of my mind. I feel I have a very important lesson to learn from what I observed, and I hope and pray that I can be the kind of mother who speaks to my children in such a way that encourages decency and goodness and a healthy and positive self esteem.  May we all truly watch what we say and think before we speak, especially when it comes to God's children in whom He has entrusted in our care. Heavenly Father does not need to shout, the Holy Ghost does not shout. And nor should we.