I have learned many lessons from my five children throughout the years, and this is not the first from Monica, but it really was beautiful.
Monica, Brandon (7), and I were at the water park yesterday. Both of the children had told me that they were having a great time, "best ever" to be exact.
We were in the children's playground area, complete with multiple sprinklers, water drops, and a variety of junior water slides. Brandon was exploring some of the slides on the larger scale, while Monica was enjoying the smallest. It's worth noting that earlier, I had worked with Monica to build her courage up enough to go it alone on the slide.
Monica would sit at the top of the slide and prepare herself to come down, "One, two, three!" before heading down the few feet that it took to reach the bottom. She continued to work up her courage, eventually learning to close her mouth before splashing into the water at the bottom of the slide, then gradually feeling comfortable enough to get out of the slide without my assistance.
Then, Ethan arrived. We did not know Ethan before "that" moment. Ethan was an energetic boy, approximately Monica's age. The other children had been patient with Monica as she sat at the top of the slide longer than most. But Ethan was not patient with her. At all. As Monica started, "One, T..." Ethan gave her a hard push down the slide. Monica, who has a flare for the dramatic, was not happy to say the least. She cried. She cried loud and hard as she came to me for consolation, which she got of course. Ethan's grandma was nearby, and I was surprised that he did not receive correction.
After Monica's next turn, Ethan came down head first right behind her, slamming into her back. Same reaction from Monica, but this time Ethan did receive correction from his grandma. "Don't come down head first Ethan." Yep, that was it. If you are a parent, you have an idea of what was going through my mind at this point. There were a few more similar incidents after that, none receiving any correction at all.
Soon, Monica and Ethan were both standing in the water at the bottom of the slide after yet another similar incident. Monica told Ethan, "It's not safe to come down too fast." Ethan responded my pushing her down. Both Ethan's grandma and I arrived to attend to the children, and she did reprimand him for the shove, but there were no consequences for Ethan beyond that. "Not exactly how I would handle that!" was what was going through my mind.
Then came my lesson.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have?" (Matthew 5: 43-46)Soon after another similar episode, Ethan ran out ahead of Monica, not watching where he was going, right into some older boys also not watching where they were going. He fell down, and it was obvious he was hurt. Monica ran to him. I saw Ethan's grandma scurrying towards him, and then stop. Monica was rubbing Ethan's head, asking him if he was alright, then extending her hand to him to help him up. He accepted Monica's assistance, and the two of them walked toward the steps of the slide....together....holding hands.
I am grateful that Ethan's grandma allowed that scenario to play out as it did. I believe that several lessons were learned in those moments. I know that I was personally humbled and at the same time, very proud of my four year old daughter.
Ethan was "still Ethan" after that, but was kind to Monica and even slowed down a few times, long enough to listen to her many philosophies of childhood life and play.
When it was time for us to leave, Monica told Ethan goodbye, and the two shared a hug.
As we walked away, I told Monica how proud of her I was and what a good example she had set. But I know God was saying to her, "Well done, good and faithful servant."