By Kat Cerruti
It was one of those days…the kind where you pray to make it through with the least amount of child-induced stress. It was my own fault, really. Running behind schedule, as usual, I had dragged my two children, PJ, age 3 1/2 and Shannon, 20 months, to the store at a time when they were usually enjoying lunch and a comfortable nap. Overly tired, with grumbling bellies, they were understandably more cranky than usual.
Moving as quickly as possible, I tossed a few needed items into the cart and worked my way to the nearest check-out counter. The volume of whining rose to public embarrassment level as the cart came to a halt. PJ quieted, momentarily distracted, as I permitted him to help me load the belt with my purchases. Shannon, however, had reached her limit and was now in a full wail.
After what seemed like an eternity I was through and on my way to the security and comfort of the mini-van. A short ten minute drive was now all that stood between me and happy, satisfied kids. Ever so slowly, I felt myself begin to relax.
That was about to change quickly.
As I strapped my daughter into her car seat (almost there!) PJ stood up in the shopping cart holding a silver can of hair mousse.
“Mommy, you forgot to put this on the black thing.”
Please no! My mind started racing. “No honey, that must have rolled out of one of the bags.”
“No, mommy.” PJ insisted. “You forgot this. We have to pay for this.”
Trying to remain optimistic, I scanned the receipt. I felt a feeling of dread creep over me. (perhaps I missed it?) I scanned the receipt again. My heart sank. My son was right. No mousse.
“We have to go back inside and pay for this” he insisted again.
For a split second I’m ashamed to admit that I considered the option of lying to him. After all, he had not yet learned to read. The thought of dragging the kids back inside and waiting in another long line was almost too much to bear. (life was so unfair!) He (and Wal-Mart) would never know the difference. But I would know, and so would God. At that moment I realized that this was one of these teachable moments that God allows in our lives.
PJ looked at me with expectation. I felt a sudden swell of pride at the simplistic honesty of a toddler’s heart.
Somewhat reluctantly, I answered him. “You’re right PJ. We need to pay for this.” As soon as I voiced the words, I felt a peace come over me.
Bracing myself, I unbuckled Shannon and placed her back in the front seat of the cart. I knew that this was sure to launch her into a full-fledged breakdown. Surprisingly, she accepted this disruption without a whimper and sat quietly sucking her thumb.
We started back across the parking lot. With each step I took, my spirit lifted. It’s amazing how good doing the right thing can make you feel.
We returned to our original check-out girl. “My son discovered that we had forgotten to pay for this,” I stated with motherly pride.
“Thank you for your honesty” she said, smiling at PJ.
“How could we not come back? I have a three-year-old watching me.” I smiled back at her. I stopped short of admitting that I had briefly struggled with the decision.
As the three of us headed back out to the car, I realized with a humble heart that one of the reasons God blesses us with children is so that we can learn from them. They have a way of encouraging us to become better people, to do better than we would do if we were left to our own self-serving decisions.
I hope that my example taught my son something about doing the right thing. I know that his example had certainly taught me.
Kathleen Cerruti is a stay-at-home mom whose family includes her wonderful husband Peter, her children PJ and Shannon, and two horses, a pony, a cat and a dog. After her family, Kathleen’s greatest passions include writing and photography because she believes both of these mediums capture life’s moments and hold them for future generations.