This week, school back in full swing, homework, meetings, forms due, schedules not-so-slowly filling up, our daughters were, understandably, overstimulated and tired. And I probably was too, not having made most of my writing deadlines.
One afternoon, the girls were in a doozy of a mood — and after a string of very disobedient moments of theirs, I tried to give them a bit of advice, a lesson, after what had just happened.
But as we drove in the car, they completely ignored mommy, laughed off all instruction, gave me smart-aleck answers, if answering at all. And it was the same for quite some time after we got back home.
Sure, they were excited and tired from all the new events of a new year, but they were very aware of their actions. They were pushing my buttons, and they knew it. And they were punished, of course — electronics taken away, privileges suspended.
But on my end, the bad thing was that I lost it.
I talked angrily at them for their disrespect and disobedience, their choice to be totally oblivious to me. And although I usually don’t like to be preachy or angry, here I was both. I was at my wit’s end and found myself compelled to share the verse that immediately came to mind, even though I wasn’t going about it very graciously.
“You know what it says in the Bible, girls? It says don’t throw away your pearls to swine, to pigs, because all they’ll do is walk all over them in the mud. Because pigs don’t know how valuable a pearl is. All they care about is the slop they eat.”
“I don’t get it,” one of them said.
I tried again. “When I give you a bit of wisdom, or advice, and you laugh or ignore or make fun of it, it’s like I’m giving you a pearl, and you’re the pig who stomps all over it in the mud. It’s a total waste.”
The older one got it.
The younger one was still thinking.
“That’s how you’re acting. Remember the pearl pendant necklaces Daddy just got for you on our vacation? It’s like throwing those into the mud and having pigs walk all over them. You’d hate that, wouldn’t you.”
“Yeah,” they both said.
“It would probably make Daddy sad, too, wouldn’t it,” I said.
“Yes,” they said.
“That’s how I feel: I’m sad when you don’t listen to what I say. It’s like you’re throwing my gift in the mud, too.”
“You don’t want to be like those pigs, do you,” I said.
“Then listen to the advice that I give you. That Daddy gives you. That your grandparents give you. We’re not perfect, not at all, but we know how to take care of you.”
“So what is the wisdom, the pearl, I just gave you?”
“Don’t give pearls to pigs?” the younger one said.
“Okay…” I started.
“Don’t ignore the important things you tell us,” the older one said.
“Yes,” I said.
We all stayed silent for a while.
The next night, again probably due to fatigue, our younger daughter was having one of those nights, crying for no reason, refusing everything — toothbrush, medicine, getting into PJs, everything — even though we were actually going to bed early. For each rebellion, I took away a day of videos, riding bike with the neighbor, and other things. Then she’d cry more, even though she brought it all on herself. The world was coming to an end. Everything was so unfair! But she was so tired, so out of it; it was obvious. Poor girl just wasn’t herself.
And with what was clearly God’s strength and not my own, I met her completely illogical, tear-stained comments with composure, one by one, for nearly a half-hour, until she finally relented, settled down and went to bed. Normally I would have lost my patience, but I just took away privileges instead and kept giving love. I wasn’t sure which one was more shocking — me being patient or her relenting. But it happened. And for the first time in a while, I went to bed right after the girls did, wiped out.
The next morning, I talked to them.
“You know, girls, that whole thing that happened last night?”
“Yeah,” they both said.
“Did you notice I didn’t raise my voice?”
“I know, right? We totally noticed,” the older one said.
I winced, because unfortunately raising my voice is my weakness when they go on the disobedience rampage. I was even more resolved.
“That’s how I’m going to try to be from now on,” I said. “Instead of raising my voice, I’ll just take things of yours away. And give them back when you’ve earned them back.”
They said “Okay.”
“But I need your help,” I said. “Since you girls know that sometimes I can be impatient, please try your best to listen the first time I ask you something. I think we get more done and have more fun when you listen the first time. All of us will be happier when you listen better and when I’m more patient. What do you say?”
My older daughter grabbed a bit of air with her fist and slid her fist into her pocket carefully.
“What are you doing?” I asked.
“Mommy, you just gave me a pearl.”
And that three-way embrace, with my two precious pearls, couldn’t have lasted long enough.
Matthew 7:6 – Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you. KJV
(This post originally appeared on this site on 8/31/14.)