From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Everyday Grace: A call from the principal’s office

by Mary Cronk Farrell

(From the Feb. 27, 2003 edition of the Inland Register)

There’s nothing like a call from the principal’s office to send a parent’s heart racing into high gear. I’ve never known such a call to bring good news.

I breathe again when I hear no bones are broken and there’s no need to call the ambulance. But my stomach knots in dread.

God works in mysterious ways. The call from the principal’s office turned into a powerful lesson in parenting, and gave me a deeper understanding of God’s merciful love.

A third-grader, who shall remain unnamed, had used an inappropriate word, which shall remain unsaid. He had been sent to the principal’s office and assigned lunch hour detention the following day.

“He’s a wonderful boy,” said the principal. “But I wanted you to know.”

I knew this particular child would feel terrible about what he’d done. The punishment at school would be more than enough. He came home that day, with his head low and a face about to crumble. I pulled him onto my lap and gathered him into a hug. It didn’t take long for the whole story to come pouring out.

“It’s okay,” I told him. “I love you.”

I didn’t feel the need to lecture or discipline. It was clear he had learned his lesson and all he needed was love. The consequences of his actions had dispensed more wisdom than I could offer. It felt good just to hold him tight.

It reminded me of a story a friend once told me about the day she skipped junior high and ended up getting arrested for smoking marijuana. She still cringes remembering how she had to call her parents from the police station to come and pick her up. They didn’t say a word. She waited all afternoon and through dinner for some dire punishment. None came. That evening her father carried through on plans to take her out ballroom dancing, something they often did together.

The incident made a strong impression on this young woman. She never skipped school again, and now, some 30 years later, she still speaks about that special night, and the love she felt from her father.

Why do I sometimes think that in order to make my children do better, they must first feel worse? When I make a mistake and sin, God doesn’t smite me down. Yes, sometimes I do feel terrible when I’ve done something wrong, but God is waiting with open arms ready to forgive me. The knowledge of God’s loving mercy gives me the courage to face my own sinfulness. Without faith in God’s unconditional love it would be hard to admit my guilt, hard to find the strength to try to do better next time.

One dad told me about the Sunday his teenage son came back from Communion and plowed into his younger brother, who happened to be blocking his way into the pew.

“I was steaming,” said the dad. “I wanted to grab him and shake him, give him a stern lecture. But we were in church. I couldn’t do a thing.”

Later in the day, his anger gone, he took his son aside. In a calm voice he told the teenager that he had seen what had happened, and that he hoped never to see such behavior again. To his surprise, the boy admitted he shouldn’t have shoved his younger brother and agreed he wouldn’t do it again.

“I was used to him arguing whenever things like this happened. This time I wasn’t angry and accusing, so he wasn’t defensive. I pointed out his behavior, but I was loving. I think that allowed him to admit he’d done wrong and to want to do better.”

I hope when my children have made some mistake, I can remember these examples. In the heat of the moment, when I feel disappointment, fear, or anger I pray my love will be stronger than those emotions. Maybe the next time the principal calls, I won’t be so anxious. After all, it could be good news.

© 2003, Mary Cronk Farrell

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