Guest post by Michelle Christensen
I loved being out and about with my kids during our homeschooling years! Once the two oldest of my five had their own cars, it was just me and the younger three who did all the errands. We did most of our grocery shopping once a month. It meant I had to plan ahead and budget well, but it saved us so much money! Every time we were in the store, I let the kids each pick out some little treat if they were good. That meant the less kids we had on the shopping trip, the less treats I had to buy — money saved!
One day, there was a promotion going on at our local, small grocery market. I told the kids we’d go there, IF they got their schoolwork finished. They did. We did. At the store, the promotion was that EACH of the kids received their very own goldfish in a bag! Live goldfish — a homeschooler’s delight, right?
Oh, goodie. Now we needed goldfish food and something to put them in. So, we next stopped at our local, small discount store. This was pre-big box store days … think mini Walmart without groceries.
We couldn’t leave the three bags with a fish in each one in a hot car, so we traipsed into the discount store with them. We bought fish food, but not a fish tank. Being a realist, I told the kids we’d put their fish in whatever bowl we had at home for a few days just to be sure they lived. If they did, then we’d consider an aquarium. As we waited in the checkout line, an older lady watched the kids and I interact. She was so tickled with how sweet they were to each other and how polite they were. She made quite a fuss praising them. I thanked her kindly but said they were just normal kids.
They were about to prove me right …
We had one more stop before we could take our bagged fish home. The car needed fuel. Just before I pulled into the gas station, the kids were fussing at each other in the back seat. I’m not really clear what took place, but my son’s goldfish bag popped!
Arg! Now I had a wet kid, a wet backseat, and a dying fish! Um, yeah ….
Luckily, one of those polite, well-behaved kids had previously left a small bucket in the car, so once we got to the station I dumped the fish into the bucket.
When we got home, the kids put their goldfish into my large glass mixing bowl and set them in the middle of the kitchen table. One died shortly, another thereafter, but one lived for years! As we ate meals, that little fish would swim to the side of the bowl in front of the person speaking. Eventually, a friend took pity on us — or was it the goldfish she pitied? — and gave us a small aquarium.
That older lady was right. The kids were super polite and well-behaved. Their behavior earned them praise many, many times. They were given balloons one day, ice cream another, and oh, so much praise everywhere I took them. But I was right, too; they were just normal kids.
I expected good behavior from them all, that’s true. I also put a lot of time into training them to behave well. That is true, too. But, my expectations weren’t so high that I couldn’t offer grace when things went wrong. Kids need a balance of training, expectations, and grace.
We ALL need grace!