I took the kids to a beach one day last summer. It was a small beach in a small community with small minds. I feel like I can say that because I grew up in a small town and I truly didn’t learn that Asians, Indians, homosexuals and welfare recipients are equal human beings until I’d spent some time living in a diverse big city. It takes a long time to expand a mind that begins small and I’m still working on it. I would like to acknowledge that perhaps there were bigger minds and larger hearts among the people present that day. But this is what I saw—teens drinking and smoking pot, taking a picnic table in to the lake to sit on while it floated, and boats zooming by with chicks lifting their shirts to show their boobs to the beach-goers. Nobody did anything really terrible but I didn’t notice anybody doing anything terribly big either. Nothing big or brave or commendable—not even myself.
A three-year-old girl is playing next to us on the beach. She appears to be accompanied by a very young mother, a young grandma, a great auntie and a teenager who has taken time earlier to play with the girl in the water. The great aunt lays resting with eyes closed on a beach towel when the three-year-old gets an idea to throw a handful of sand at her. The grandma foresees the action and exclaims, “Don’t!” but she does it anyway.
Another “Don’t!” sung in duet by her mother and grandma results in the girl throwing a handful of sand at grandma. The mother wastes no time. She picks up a handful of sand and throws it directly at her child’s face. The grandma gasps “Oh,” and says quietly, “it’s in her mouth.”
“Good,” says the mother.
The grandma grows quiet and I feel her weighing the reality of the situation—she has no place in raising this girl; she had her turn raising that girl.
The child says carefully, “Mama, it’s in my mouth.”
“Well, don’t throw things at people then!” snaps the mother and then in her very next displeased breath she scorns, “It’s only sand, it won’t hurt you.”
I can’t help but ponder the messages the child learned in that moment. Throwing sand is bad for me to do but it’s okay for others. I should not throw sand at others but if they throw it at me, I should suck it up.
The intent of this post is not to judge. I’ve had some less than ideal moments parenting my kids. My hope is to inspire the possibility of choice. I can choose how I act in every moment. I can choose to stop and think before I react. I can choose to forgive myself for my mistakes. I can choose to try harder and do better. I can choose to forgive others for any negative effect they’ve had on me. I can choose to recognize patterns and to think about changing them. Rather than throw sand, I can choose to draw a line in it.