J.R., who recently turned 7, had an “it’s-tough-being-a-kid” day the other day. It began well as we decided to go fishing on a nearby State-owned lake. I had bought new rods-and-reels for his sister and him, in an attempt to reduce the chances of tangling. (I am convinced the toddler poles they have had for years were designed with quality to last for 4 days, and they had long since expired.) He was so excited! As soon as we pushed off from the dock, his line was in the water, trailing behind the boat.
When we were almost across the lake, J.R. excitedly announced, “Mom! I let out all the line of my whole reel!”
“J.R.!!” His brother scolded, in the way that only a big brother could. “If you catch a fish now, you won’t be able to bring it in!”
J.R. quickly tried to bring in the line, only to find that the new reel wasn’t reeling.
By now, we were being blown toward the opposite shoreline, so I told him I would help as soon as I got the boat to a safe place. Unbeknownst to me, he was worried he was going to catch a fish, so he had begun pulling the line in by hand. While I diverted the boat from submerged objects, and fought the wind’s desire for me to hit land, an hour’s worth of work collected behind me: J.R. pulled the entire 150 feet into the boat. As if descending on its prey, the fishing line tangled the boat along with Christine’s line while gathering as a rat’s nest on the boat’s floor.
“Oh good, Mom, I got all the way to my lure!” he naively informed me.
As I turned to him, I couldn’t believe my eyes. In the first ten minutes of the trip, he had managed to take three of us out of fishing ability.
I fought my urge to yell, “What were you thinking?!” as I let the boat bang up against a branch, which I knew would hold us in one place while I battled the tangle. I knew if I showed my frustration, he would melt down. He wasn’t trying to be a problem.
This was just one of those “kid” moments. You know the kind? He was only being a kid. His inept ability to maneuver a line or assess the situation was affecting us all. It wasn’t his disobedience, a foul heart or purposeful mischief. I had seen it before: once, he left the water running and overflowed the sink to the basement. Another time, he had tried to clean up his own mess and only made it messier. Times like these are when we moms have a lot of power: We can yell and scream due to our selfish frustration, teaching any child within ear-shot that anger should be used when things don’t go OUR way, or we can save our anger for something more important –something which is eternal. I tried to work on the solution in silence, to keep the moment teachable.
“Sorry, Mom,” he assured me while I pulled line apart, one inch at a time. I would have loved to simply cut it loose, but it was the entire spool of line, so he wouldn’t have been able to fish. I worked some more and managed to get it free from the boat and from Christine’s line. I gave J.R. my pole so he could at least fish, while I stayed focused on the ball of twined line in the bottom of the boat.
Just as I got the tangled mass to a point where I could cut it and still have enough with which to fish, I realized we needed to depart our fishing spot and head to the dock, in case the wind slowed our crossing of the lake. I didn’t want to be late for picking up my eldest, Casey.
We were back at the dock without delay, so we had 10 minutes to spare.
“Can we PLEASE fish from shore for a few minutes?” Nate asked.
“Sure, “ I said. We loaded the gear into the truck, and drove toward the park exit. There was a sandy shoreline, which we had wanted to try, next to the exiting driveway.
When I came to the alluring fishing spot, there was one fisherman already there, enjoying the serenity of the natural surroundings of ducks and geese with ducklings and goslings. This fifty yards of beach was decked out with park benches. A canopy of trees provided shade as well as homes for the squirrels that raced in every direction.
The man sat there in silence. His shirtless body was decorated with tattoos, covered slightly by the long hair flowing from his hat. In his fifties with deeply tanned skin, he looked like this was not his first day at the pond.
“You can fish anywhere, kids, but please stay far from that man. Let him have his peace.” I said as I handed each a pole and glanced at the clock to mentally note the 10 minutes I would get to read while they fished before we needed to go pick up their brother.
BEFORE I EVEN OPENED MY BOOK, I looked up to see poor J.R., now with his line ACROSS the man’s line. I couldn’t believe it! I had only given one direction: “Stay away from that guy. Give him space. You can go anywhere except where his line is.” It sounded like a scene from Peter Rabbit, and J.R. was going to miss out on blackberries and milk for dinner!
This could get ugly. I feared, glancing at the guy as he stood to assess the situation.
I quickly descended the hill to the water’s edge, and began pleading forgiveness for my son’s error.
“I am sorry. I think his cast went in a different direction than he intended.” I said.
“Well it’s ok. I was his age once,” the stranger replied. “How’s he going to learn if he doesn’t try?”
Tears welled in my heart as I appreciated this stranger’s grace. The man’s kind answer to my son affected me all day. When a driver cut me off, a friend forgot a promised delivery, or a waitress messed up my order, I thought, “Hey, I was ‘young’ once too.”
Pass it on.
It is amazing the distance of the ripples in the water where it falls.
May God bless your day as you bless others with grace,
Ephesians 1:7 For by the blood of Christ we are set free, that is, our sins are forgiven. How great is the grace of God,
Matthew 6:14-15 If you forgive others the wrongs they have done to you, your Father in heaven will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive the wrongs you have done.