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Turning Your Back on the World

alec vanderboom

In one of the grace filled moments that Conversion Diary Jen talks about, my Mom called me in the midst my son's full scale temper tantrum this morning.

My four year old son is going through some sort of "disintegration" period as the parenting manuals so helpfully put it. To give you an idea of the recent magnitude, Alex's usual punishment for stealing his baby sister's pacifier in the car is the removal of a shoe. (There are only so many punishments you can administer inside a car hurling down a D.C. freeway. We found out by accident that one of my son's currency is to always have a pair of his favorite Spiderman shoes on both feet.) The threat of a shoe removal was always a "sure fire" method in our correction tool belt. On Sunday, Alex was so terrible on the car ride to Alexandria he lost both shoes and both socks. My husband ripped off that last sock at the Pentagon Exit, and looked at me in horror. We had miles to go before the King Street Exit and no leverage left!

Then on Monday, my husband kindly suggested using his AMC movie Christmas gift card and to take the kids to see "Hotel for Dogs." My son started immediately screaming "I will not see a movie about Dogs! I will not see it! NO DOGS!" Of course, fifty minutes later he's laughing hysterically with both sisters about the jinx of a homeless mutt.

Today when my Mom called me at 11:00 AM, my son was losing his cool yet again about my enforcement of the one hour computer time limit.

So it wasn't rare that I struggled to enforce a time outs with a strong willed, and strong armed four year old, but it was extremely rare that my Mom chose to call me. Usually, I call her. As in that's such a pattern in our telephone conversations that the last time she's call me in the past five years was to report my paternal grandmother's death.

So it's sort of rare for me to pick up a ringing phone and hear my Mom's voice on the line.

"I'm in court," she says happily. Then "what's going on?"

As I report the current time out battle with Alex, she burst into giggles. "That's what they say, four, four four..." (My Mom is a Educational Professor who specializes in Child Development, so "they" refers to someone official like Piaget, Dewey, Erickson, one of her favorites.)

So my Mom kindly listens as I retell my weekend and state that I'm expecting a call from the Geneva Convention since Alex has officially decided that making him watch Nickelodeon movies starring dogs is a new form of torture. She doesn't have any advice other than "You just live through it" which is really one of the most reassuring and most helpful things a fellow parent can say.

Then when we've exhausted the subject of her grandson, my Mom says "I'm in court. Whenever I'm in court I think about you and I have to tell you that you made such a right decision quiting law. The law is so boring."

To which I reply "What are you talking about?" Meaning, you've never thought it was a good idea for me to have multiple children, let alone quit my job to take care of them, where is this change of heart coming from?

Yet my Mom takes this comment to mean that I've never recognized before that the practice of law is dull.

"Abby admit it," she tells me. "The Law is really boring. I just came from a hearing where the school's lawyer droned on and on about 'rational nexus.' She insisted there must be a 'rational nexus' between the misconduct and public safety. Abby, I don't know why these people plead guilty to a crime and then tell us "I didn't do it so don't take away my teaching license." Don't you think it's foreseeable that if they plead guilty to a crime that then they might also lose their right to teach? Isn't that a 'rational nexus?'

And I don't know why these lawyers have to drag out these cut and dry cases all afternoon! It seems like the more simple a case in on paper, the more some lawyer has to drag out the court hearing. One of my fellow jury members found an Anne Klein suit on sale for $20 at the Mall last night. She promised herself that she'd run downtown and pick up that suit after we finished our case at noon. Now we're not going to get done by lunch. We've still got six witnesses to go & we just found out they reserved this courtroom until 5 PM. We're going to be in this hearing until dinner!"

(That's my Mom on her freelance job as a juror for teaching license removal hearings in our State Capital. It's hard to see which makes her more indignant, felons thinking they can remain as public school teachers, boring lawyers or missed Anne Klein sales.)

"So honey, I know exactly why you quit being a lawyer. You made the right call."

At this point Alex's shrieks stop only long enough for me to hear the crashes of all of his and Hannah's toys coming off their shelves. In his anger at being confined to a "room time out" as opposed to a simple "chair time out", Alex has decided to destroy his bedroom. I cringe as I think of the hours we spent organizing all of the kids' toys yesterday on Jon's day off. "So I made the right call . . ." I said distractedly.

"You made the right call!" my Mom said with assurance. "I told all my friends in the jury room, this is exactly why my daughter quit practicing law. That law job was way beneath her talents. She needed to focus on something worthwhile. So now she raises her kids!".

That made me laugh. "Raising my kids." It makes me sound like I'm raising prize winning geraniums or something.

Anyway, I drank it all in.

That's grace. Sometimes Mommy Mary will show up herself to straighten out your life. Sometimes she'll send your own Mother. Either way, you'll always get a steady pat on the back for leaving worldliness behind and helping to build up the Kingdom of Christ.