God’s Candy Bar

Candy BarI recall neither my misdeeds nor the spanking, but I do remember the humiliation when my dear mother demanded that I lower my panties to show my buttocks. The sight must have been worrisome, because for the first time in all my three years, she took me to the grocery and bought me a candy bar. I don’t think I understood her regrets over the punishment, but the unexpected treat elated me.

Jan and I promised that we would never raise a hand against Aisha. However, I confess that I am guilty of raising my voice regularly. I love my daughter more than life, but when she pushes the limits of my patience or defies my parental authority, my self-control tends to grow wings and fly out of the window.

A source of recurring friction is Aisha’s lack of sense of time. Every single school day, I have to urge her, “Come on, honey—it’s late, hurry up now.” I’m always the first to get in the car, waiting for her to race out of the house, her jacket dangling by one sleeve as she holds socks or earrings to put on.

One morning last week, she dragged herself out of bed at 7:45 once again. She got dressed, packed her school bag, and gulped down her yogurt. While she was brushing her teeth, I headed outside to the car. The engine hummed as I sat drumming my fingers on the steering wheel for more than five minutes. Only the concern that I might wake up my husband prevented me from honking the horn in a frustration frenzy. Finally, Aisha jumped into the car. The clock showed 8:08.

“What took you so long? You know we need at least twelve minutes to get to school—you’ll be five minutes late.” I backed out of the driveway and drove as fast as possible around the potholes in the dirt road.

Instead of replying, Aisha flipped down the vanity mirror. “Yuck! My eyeliner is a big failure today.”

As the car roared uphill, the implication of her words hit me. “What? Did you put on makeup when you were already late?” My voice grew louder. “And I sat waiting for you in the car?”

Silence.

I slapped the wheel and further increased the volume. “How in the world did it enter your mind to put on makeup at a moment you’re supposed to be on your way to school?”

No answer.

“Today you won’t escape, young lady. I’ll have to sign a tardy slip, and it will go on your record.” I knew she loathed the idea. “That will teach you.”

A glance to the side revealed that she had her eyes shut. I knew she was praying to be allowed in without a tardy slip; she always does when she’s late.

Well, sweetheart, your prayer won’t help you this time.

8:20—The gravel crunched as I parked the car in front of the school. Impossible—the doors are still open. Aisha grabbed her school bag and rushed inside the school building without saying goodbye. Surely, they won’t let her pass.  I opened the car and was about to step out when she appeared in the doorway and gave me a thumbs up, her face flushing with triumph.

I slumped back in my seat. God, what are you doing? She deserves a rebuke! I could use some backup in my attempts to educate my daughter. How will she ever take me seriously?

Grumbling, I reached for the key.

What do you remember—the spanking or the candy bar?

My hand froze in midair. As the thought sank in, a sigh escaped my lips, and I bowed my head. Okay God, You win. I’m sorry. Not my way, but Yours.

Feeling small before the great God of grace, I started the car and drove home.


photo credit: Mars Honeycomb split via photopin (license)

I first submitted this article to the FaithWriters Weekly Writing Challenge. The topic was “Pride.”

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Hot Flash

hotflashSomething is terribly wrong. I sense confusion, embarrassment, a hint of panic. One second I try to figure out what the problem is, the next I know and brace myself for the evaporating experience of a hot flash. I stand at the kitchen counter, cutting tomatoes, and I feel my face turn equally red. Gradually, the burning sensation spreads over my whole body, and I break into a sweat. Thank God, it lasts only a minute.

Back to normal, I tuck my hair behind my ear and watch my 14-year-old daughter Aisha. She has just arrived home from school. Squatting, she caresses her small dog that jumps up to her, excited that his playmate has returned.

“Mummy, you know what Francesca did today?”

“Well, no, but I would like to.” I turn to the stove and slide the sliced tomatoes into the frying pan, where little pieces of garlic and peperoncino already are sautéing in olive oil from our own trees. We’re having guests for dinner tonight and I’m stressed, because I want to finish cooking before they arrive.

“She told the teacher she needed to wash her hands, but instead she went to the teachers’ lounge and used her cell phone to photograph the test of next week!”

“Wow… that’s serious, honey. That’s cheating. Does she realize that she’s risking suspension?”

Aisha pushes the dog away and turns on her tablet. “No, I don’t think so. Although she’ll do anything to be popular. She said she’d send it to each of us on Facebook.”

Thank you Lord, for a daughter who is always open with me so that I can guide her and show her Your way.

“Ah, here it is already. So what do I do, Mom?”

I ponder a few seconds before I answer, “Sweetheart, what do you think would be the best thing to do?”

“Throw it away?”

“It would, wouldn’t it?”

“So I can’t even have a look?”

“Do you want to participate in cheating?”

I hear a disappointed sigh. “Well, I guess not.”

I stir in the tomato sauce, add some white wine, and inhale the lovely aroma.

“Okay Mom, it’s gone.”

“Good girl. I’m really proud of you.” I put the spoon away and turn around to give her a big hug.

“Whatever grade you get on the test, it’ll be worth a thousand times more than the grades of the kids who cheated, honey.”

She looks up at me and gives me a big smile.

Grateful for my daughter’s honest heart, I let her go and continue cooking the pasta sauce, the lemon chicken, the vegetables, and the jam tart.

Here in Italy, eating together is an important event. It affirms friendships. In addition, we always pray for opportunities to share God’s love and grace while we have fellowship over a meal. However, this country is famous for its cuisine, and its people are reluctant to try unfamiliar food. I want our guests feel at ease; therefore, I prepare genuine Italian dishes with great care.

By the time our guests arrive, Aisha has finished her homework, my husband Jan has set the table, and I’ve just put the tart in the oven. We welcome the lovely family we recently met and invite them to sit down.

After some small talk, Jan says a short prayer that as usual, results in a brief, awkward silence. Then we dive into the pasta all’arrabbiata.

Suddenly, I hear a little squeak. Aisha stares at her food, frowning in disgust. “Yuck! There’s a hair in my pasta!”

Cringing with embarrassment, I suppress the urge to cover my face. Instead, I rack my brain for some reassuring reply, but before I can open my mouth, she adds, “Is it yours or the dog’s?”

A violent hot flash engulfs me. While my husband tries to distract our guests, I manage to teach my daughter what to do whenever you spot a foreign object in your food: push it to the edge of your plate–silently.

Openness. Honesty. Yes, I thank God for Aisha’s praiseworthy qualities. But Lord, I really could use your help with the fine-tuning.

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(I submitted this article also to the Writing Challenge on the FaithWriters website. The topic was “Facepalm”.)