Last week, Indiana’s winter hit 5-year temperature lows, complete with wind chill warnings, school delays and cancellations due to the dangerously low temperatures. I’ve found myself doing all the things my mom used to do during the winters we lived in Iowa and survived 40-below-zero temperatures. I made soup and hot tea, baked things, lit candles, kept a fire going in the fireplace, ran the space heater in the bedroom an hour before time to go to sleep. I bundled the kids in layers so they’d have no skin showing (and therefore wouldn’t risk frostbite) and we’re keeping the gas tank full so the line doesn’t freeze. All the things “good moms” are supposed to do.
So, with all that in mind, I let Jackson and his friend walk to a nearby hill to sled and snowboard for a few minutes after school while the sun was still shining. They bundled up good and I warned them not to stay long. I felt so pleased as a mother when they were back just a few minutes later… they heeded my advice! Or so I thought.
Just as I opened the door, I noticed Jackson was sticking out his tongue. He said, “Hey, Mom. My tongue is bleeding.”
“Why is your tongue bleeding?” I beg.
“Oh. I stuck it to a pole.” he said matter-of-factly.
I froze in my tracks for a moment, unable to believe that this smart child of mine (who, by the way, has seen A Christmas Story at least a hundred times) didn’t believe eleven years worth of stories and warnings about what happens to kids who try this age-old stunt! I quickly ran for warm water to soothe his tongue.
“Wouldn’t warm water have been helpful BEFORE he ripped it from the pole,” I lamented to myself. I asked him how he missed the part in A Christmas Story where the school called the fire department to rip the kid’s tongue off the pole, and he replied, “I thought it was a myth.”
“I told you it wasn’t a myth!” I persisted.
“I didn’t hear you.” he said.
Just when I found myself completely unable to believe his unbelief… I was reminded that I am exactly like him in that way. I figuratively “stick my tongue to the pole” all the time. I want to EXPERIENCE the answers, I don’t just want to hear about them. I want to KNOW that I KNOW what’s true. Sometimes it hurts. But at least I don’t have any questions about it later! And neither will Jackson.
Sometimes learning is messy. But I guess as long as we’re still learning… we’re headed in the right direction! The world can be colder than an Indiana winter… and life experience doesn’t come easily. So I’m finding that I not only want to make our home warm and comfortable physically, I also to create the kind of safety where my kids can come home bleeding and know that someone understands. The harshest lessons will eventually birth wisdom. I have to trust that and not expect my kids to be wise just because I say so.