At the time of writing this, today was N’s first day of Transitional Kindergarten.
I didn’t know what to expect (emotion-wise) when we’d drop him off at school. My parents remind me, quite often, that I bawled and refused to go in the classroom on the first day of Kindergarten.
I remember other parents sharing with me that they were more emotional than their kids on the first day of school.
So, there we were (my wife and I), and we dropped him off in his classroom and I felt… relief. Finally. I can have my mornings and morning routine back. If there were tears, they were ones of joy more than anything else.
Another milestone took place the day before school started.
I caught him lying to me. N is on the autism spectrum disorder and his language and comprehensive skills are nowhere near what a “normal” 4 year old should be.
It was such a weird moment as I sent him to the corner for lying. I couldn’t believe he was lying to me (in an indignant way) and the same time, I couldn’t believe he was lying to me (in a “you go boy” way). Him lying is a sign — at least in my mind — that he is progressing and growing and learning and expanding and all the other “ings” that have him moving forward.
As he was acting like his life was rotting away in that corner, I started wondering — where do these kids learn to lie? I mean, it was fascinating to see him lie to me. He lied to my wife the other day about a similar thing. How do they know how to lie and when to lie? Where does that ability come from? Is it innate? Is it learned? Then how do they know we’re lying?
I began to wonder — is there any way that he picked up the act of lying from either my wife or myself?
Because we’re beginning to realize that we’re living with a sponge and that nurture is a very formidable force in shaping a person.
It’s been amazing to see N pick up on some of our quirks.
He’s adopted my wife’s sassiness as he imitates her response of, “Fine, then” or “or not.”
He’s adopted my potty mouth.
One day after preschool (the preschool that is part of our church where I am the pastor of), his teacher came up to me and told me that as N was putting away his lunch, he dropped everything on the floor and yelled, “SH*T!”
I responded with, “I’ll make sure my wife watches her language around him” which of course, they didn’t believe so I followed up with, “At least he used it in the right context…?”
I’m not a habitual potty mouth. It comes out only when I’m driving. And it’s not like, bad words.
Some idiot driver would do something, so I’d “mutter” something to reflect his idiocy (and the regular “stupid” doesn’t feel satisfying enough). Only to hear a small voice in the back seat repeating what I just said. Oops. (I should also mention that I stopped listening to any hip-hop albums/songs when he’s in the car after he started repeating a certain word that Kendrick Lamar kept saying over and over…)
So I started using Korean swear words — at least if he said that in school, no one would know. Only, we were at my parents house one time and out of nowhere, N dropped a bad word in Korean which brought my parents out of their rooms, eyes wide asking, “Who taught him that?”
Of course I confessed, “Rahel.” It couldn’t be me, their perfect son; the source of their pride and joy; their lives’ greatest accomplishment and achievement. They didn’t believe me either…
But he’s also picking up my wife’s behavioral quirks.
Like the tapping of the sandals to get the sand off after walking on the beach. He does it exactly the way she does it.
My wife also has a habit of taking french fries and patting them down with her napkin (every. single. fry) to degrease them. Now he’s doing that, too.
He’s been imitating my wife so much, I sit back and think, “Oh no. There’s two of them now…”
He even yells, “Go Cowboys!” and I can’t get him to say “Go Professional Football Team of Washington DC!” I did get him to say, “Go Messi!” and “Go Neymar!” But his go to is, “Go Cowboys!” He can’t, can’t, become a Cowboys fan…
Not only do I have to watch what I say, now I have to watch what I do. He’s making life so difficult!
It’s led me to reflect on what kind of example I may be setting not only in my household but in my faith community and neighborhood.
I’m often haunted by the words of Paul, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.”
If I wrote that verse in Corinthians, I would’ve wrote, “Follow the example of Christ.” Or the easiest of adages to say as a leader of any sort: Do as I say, not as I do.
I’m saving the next idea for a different post or podcast — but we tend to only focus on the example we may be setting when we’re surrounded by other folks who may look towards us for cues or guidance.
But in our private lives, we often don’t care how we may behave, act, or say — because no one’s watching. So we lack integrity. Who we are in public vastly differ who we are in private. I think a lot us clergy trip and fall because our inside lives don’t match our outside lives; we only live out our calling when someone sees us. But who you really are is the person you are when no one’s watching.
Here’s the thing for me, though.
Often times I’d catch myself being the Pharisee that was praying in the temple — sure I may not be setting a good example God, but at least I’m not like that/him/her/them.
Every time I catch myself thinking like that, a small, grating voice creeps into my head and asks, “What’s your goal? What’s your end game? To feel more righteous than others or to be like Christ?” Ugh.
As a follower of Christ, my goal should be to be like Christ; to follow his example; to have him be the model of faith. If my goal is to be “better” than my neighbors, I think I may be on the wrong path.
Follow my example as I follow the example of Christ.
No one said following Jesus is easy.
So here’s to me following the example of Christ in both my private and public life.
And if you ever see me slipping up, just remember: do as I say, not as I do…