It was the color I saw as my son, suspended above me in a McDonald's Playland tube, wallowed in the dark depths of rebellion. He not only took great delight in his sin, but he lured his best friend and faithful companion into the murky mess as well. "I will not come down. I will not go home," declared Gabriel. "And don't you go down either, Tyler," he commanded.
My friend Tammy and I stood below in disbelief. In a split second, my little boy-normally characterized by obedience, gathered enough lawless ammunition to render two seasoned moms helpless. We spoke sternly, we reprimanded, and we reminded our boys of the consequence of disobedience.
And then we pulled out a last-ditch effort in a desperate attempt to flee the fast-food joint with some shred of dignity. We employed the "we're leaving" fake out. No go.
Bending my six-foot, one-inch frame to shimmy through a plastic maze in pursuit of Boy Gone Wild was not an option. In the end, we waited helplessly until the ornery ran thin. I slumped into a booth. The sharp claws of anger released my heart into the hands of dejection, humiliation, frustration, and sadness.
Tammy had seen my child at his worst. She's witnessed my inability to bring him to self-control. And she'd experienced her own frustration as my preschool prodigal led her son astray. I've had the blessing of many friendships over the years. Each has been handcrafted, and I've learned a great deal by walking through life with my sisters in motherhood. But to be honest, not all my friendships have been filled with grace. When one of my boys would slip off the tightrope of good behavior, I'd plummet from the tightrope of good mothering. Clinging to the façade of flawless parenting with never-blow-it-children was stressful and exhausting. Tammy slid into the booth next to me.
"I'm so sorry," I said. "I'm sorry Gabriel instigated this rebellion. I'm sorry he held Tyler hostage and pulled him in. I'm sorry you have places to go, but you're stuck here waiting for the white flag of surrender, too." Tears sprang to my eyes. Mothering can be so humbling. Tammy reached across the table and wrapped her warm hands around mine. “You are a good mother. You teach, you train, and you love well. But we're working with little boys, and sometimes they just mess up."
Tammy saw beyond the ugly circumstance to the heart of a mother who was grieving for her child's behavior. She saw a mom who was doing her best to mold the hearts of her kids. She did not condone Gabriel's behavior, but she understood that his actions didn't make me a substandard mom. She doled out grace as easily as she pulled tissues from her pocket.
I accepted both.
I dried my eyes and silently thanked God for this friend of mine. Her response was salve to my heart. I've learned a lot from Tammy. When it's time for accountability, she's right there to help hold my toes to the line. But when Gabriel, with the name and face of an angel, purges all things angelic for a heart roll in the sludge of sin, she's right there, too...pulling sweet blessings from her pocketful of grace.