Sometimes when my kids get together with their cousins, the two older boys will play with Caleb. And Titus, my third son, and Tiana will play with Alana and Ethan. Every now and then, they will play “house,” and Alana will assume the role of mommy and the other kids will be her “children.” This really would be okay except that for the last two years, Titus has wanted to play the role of “baby.” Now that he is four years old, I really want to move him away from that role. When he acts the part of baby, he reverts to cooing and snuggling under blankets while Alana “takes care of him.” I don’t know why he enjoys being the infant but I think he’s got to graduate from this and diversify his acting portfolio! I’ve told him he can play the role of brother but he doesn’t like that. And then he decided to be an animal but a BABY lion. So he was cooing and snuggling under blankets like a baby lion. What the?! At a certain point, I had to put my foot down. I called up my sister in law, Jenny, and we agreed that Alana could still play house but Titus was not allowed to play the role of a baby. I needed her help to get Alana to comply, too, because she liked having him play the role of baby. I understood where Alana was coming from. Except for our little Tiana, she is surrounded with brothers and boy cousins so getting Titus to play baby was a lot of fun for her. But for Edric and I, this wasn’t a pretend game we wanted Titus to get into. So we made a rule, “No more playing baby.” It was a very clear rule. I reinforced it just a couple days ago.
And then today…
We were sitting around the dinner table when Edan said, “I don’t want Titus to get hurt,” and he burst into tears. What in the world was going on? “What’s wrong? What happened?” I had no idea what this was all about. And then he said, “Titus was ACTING like a baby.” I looked over at Titus who had half a Cheeto in his mouth, totally oblivious, and asked, “Did you play baby with Alana again?” He said, “No.” Elijah came in to explain everything. (He likes to do this. To clarify. To give the details.) “Titus was not playing baby. He was acting like a baby when he was in our cousin’s house.”
So I turned to Titus again. “Titus, remember what we learned about truthfulness. Did you play baby?” He responded with a “No.” “Okay, I trust you. Remember, you are not supposed to play baby.” He acknowledged me. The issue was over. I did not spank him for this because playing baby in a game of “house-house” is different than acting like a baby. The first would have been disobedience to a command. The second could have been a response triggered by a number of factors. So I let it go. Titus went on eating his Cheetos.
In the meantime, Edan, who had been so troubled about having to tell on his brother, had calmed down. I took him aside to talk to him about what happened. And I found out that he was convicted to tell me the truth but he struggled with the idea that his revelation might merit his brother a spanking. He didn’t want to have to put Titus in that predicament. He was concerned that Titus would have to suffer pain for his wrong (which turned out NOT to be an act of disobedience).
It’s instances like these that I appreciate the hearts of my kids. They aren’t perfect children but they genuinely care about one another and look out for each other. At the same time, they are learning to discern right from wrong and what it means to make hard choices. It was a hard choice for Edan to make — to tell or not to tell. He wanted to tell because he knew that if Titus was wrong, he needed to be disciplined for it. But he struggled because he wanted to protect Titus from the pain of discipline. He could have kept quiet but his conscience would have bothered him and he knew this.
As I reflected on what happened between my boys, it made me think of how we too come up to forks in the road of life. Which path is the uncomfortable choice that risks momentary pain but leads to righteousness? Which one is the easier choice that trades temporary peace for a defiled conscience? May we be discerning enough to know the difference and bold enough to choose what is right.