I pulled back the slingshot and launched another volley- “I don’t hear you practicing!!”

“”I don’t want to.” The pigs are NOT supposed to fight back.

“I don’t have time for this.”  I said to my youngest, kind of. … When I looked at him I noticed he was only a box of popcorn from looking like a sports spectator as the battle waged on.


Me- 0

Piggy- 1

I pulled back the sling – and launched yet another bomb. (AKA: threat)  “If you don’t practice those scales, you will NOT be going outside.”

No response and no scales. Well, except for a quick discordant banging on the keys a few times.

Score: Me 0

Little piggy- 2

The volley continued. It escalated to tears yelling and much angst.

“YOU wanted to take piano- lessons- now PRACTICE! It’s part of your homeschool- you don’t finish- you don’t play. That’s the deal.”

The  score at this time? Me: 0 Piggy 5,001. The bombs escalated.

I grounded him from talking. I may have grounded him from air.

No practicing. Nothing.

I knew I’d crossed a line. I knew I should have waited for piano practice, until we were both in a better “place.” (Like maybe… high school, or at least after my period.. PMS may have been playing a role in this game..) The line I crossed wasn’t just yelling, it was philosophical. I don’t believe in making music a demand. Music is art. It can’t be forced. Music is a  joy.  Music isn’t a punishment.

Except that day.  That day music was Angry birds in 3 d. I kept launching threats, and the little piggy was winning. The more angry birds I launched from the kitchen table, the more hunkered down in wooden Rube Goldberg devices he became.

I launched a few shots that fell even shorter… Something about “when your father gets home” and Calling Santa….

It was quiet. Too quiet.

I got up from the kitchen table and rounded the corner to the family room.

I almost collided with a very angry little piggy. He was no where near the piano. He was however- working his fingers furiously in my general direction.

I gasped. My piggy was flipping his own bird. It was angry- but it was not in the game.

Game Over.

“WHERE DID YOU LEARN THAT?” I screamed. (It seemed like the right thing to asks at the time..)

I was torn between crying and laughing.

I remained stoic. Probably because I was in shock.

I’d purposefully tried to avoid him learning behavior like this. We’d chosen to homeschool the boys for educational and social reasons… just one of which was so he wouldn’t end up flipping me off like a little degenerate….(He was a second grader- at the time… you know just the point where delinquency risks run highest..)

But- here we were.

In an angry bird flipping, stand off. Literally.

For an instant, I wanted to flip him off in return. I didn’t. (That wouldn’t be very Christ-like, now would it?- forget the fact that I’d spent the last 45 minutes launching verbal- un-christlike threats…. that’s irrelevant. I have standards.)

For an instant, I felt like a total #momfail.

I almost lost it. (What ever “it” was.)

But something stopped me.

Maybe it was God.. or my consciences… or some type of good sense…cause I sure didn’t know how to handle this…but I looked at him…my little piggy was green with remorse… (or nausea) But- he knew he had crossed a line too. He was: busted. For more than dodging piano practice.

“Do you know what that means?” I asked.

“It means I don’t want to play piano and I’m mad at you.” He replied… I scanned his face like a computer.. searching to see if there was any acknowledgment of it meaning more than that… nothing.

“That’s not what that means.” 

“What does it mean?”  He looked  clueless. I was glad.

“Something you don’t need to know- but should not be using it, or showing it to anyone else. Got it?” 

For once, my typically questioning every answer child- got the message: “Don’t ask- (what it means) Don’t tell (anyone else to do this) and above all:  Don’t flip your mother the bird, ever again.”

However- the rest of that day I was haunted by guilt and worry…

“I can’t believe my own kid flipped me off. I thought I’d kept him from “influences” like that…Where did he learn it? What if he does this at church?  What if he teaches other kids how to do this? What will the other moms think??” I may have worried about his mortal soul….about this being the slippery slope to juvie….about drugs being next…. or maybe stealing….I considered killing him to avoid a future mass murderer….

Instead– I turned to a friend. Their response: “Tracey, he’s a kid. He’s human. He’s going to sin. It’s part of being human….He was angry- it was an immature response. It’s not the end of the world. It’s a time to show discipline and grace.” 

It felt like it for a while. But, it wasn’t.

We all survived. He managed to avoid juvenile detention. (He’s in college.) I managed to avoid prison for killing him. I managed to show both discipline and grace… (The behavior wasn’t acceptable… but he is always loved…. neither was mine.. and so am I…)

All these years later- we laugh about it on occasion. “Remember when you got busted for flipping Mom the bird?” “Yeah.. I don’t know what I was thinking… but I thought she was going to kill me…” (I wanted to… as an honor killing.. I think.)

We’re not laughing about the bird flipping. We’re laughing about what an ordeal we’d made of piano lessons. About over reactions. We also remember the talks later.. about grace and forgiveness… (turns out as the adult acting like a toddler trying to get him to DO WHAT I SAY- needed some grace too…)

Every mom will face something like this at some point… the fearful disappointment of your kid being: human. Sinning, even. Maybe it will be a swear word overheard, or a flipping of the bird. Maybe a punch thrown at school or a call from the principal… maybe it will be worse.. maybe not as dramatic.. but it will be something….

And when it happens- I just want you to remember….”

He’s (she’s) a kid. He’s human. He’s going to sin. It’s part of being human….He was angry- it was an immature response. It’s not the end of the world. It’s a time to show discipline, and grace……

And maybe play a few rounds to the other Angry Birds… just to chill out a bit…. it’s not the end of the world. It just feels like it.

Roman’s 3:23 “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”

Dear lord- I remember that day so well.. I remember my anger and the fear we both felt. Him- in getting so very caught in flipping me off- and me- of having failed as a parent… Lord- no matter how hard we try to protect our kids from “influences” and teach them the right things to do… they will choose to sin, eventually. Help us to exhibit both discipline and grace when it happens… and not to panic. Oh.. and Lord? Help us not to get so hung up on “piano practice” minutes that we totally wreck the joy of the music…. amen…
PS- While he had a phenomenal teacher- (not me) My oldest (and middle) ended up ditching the piano.. it still sits in our living room, an expensive reminder of how my controlling nature stole the joy out of the music.. maybe someday it will be played again… with joy.
PPS: We had a great over-all homeschool experience for 3 years… but eventually our season of homeschooling came to an end. It was just- time. (It had nothing to do with flipping the bird- more to do with spots opening up in a great charter school near our home;)