Friday, January 6, 2012

My kid outclassed me (and I didn’t scrub the floors).

OK so, first of all, I didn’t go all Molly Maids on the old house after we moved out.  I figured the new owners were going to give it an overhaul to put their own smell on the place anyway, and, frankly, we had other priorities moving week.  The actual moving, three kids, Thanksgiving, out of town family, and a cancer diagnosis in my husband’s immediate family – to name the most obvious contenders for our attention.  But all excuses aside, we did leave the house without completing our regular housekeeping, so it was not the spotless showplace it had been a few weeks earlier.  Let me know if I’m wrong on this, but I’ve never known anyone who moved into a house or apartment and raved about the previous owner’s housekeeping; cleaning the new place is part of moving.  Or so I thought.

I expected the new people would find something to complain to the neighbors about, but what I didn’t expect was that my ten year old would be approached at school by the child of our former neighbor, in front of other kids, with a nasty accusation about our family’s filthy living – as reported to her parents by the buyers of our house.  As if they hadn’t gone through the house just a few weeks earlier and seen how clean it was when we weren’t in the middle of moving.  I was horrified when my daughter told me what the girl had said.  I couldn’t believe she wasn’t crying and wondered if she was being brave for us.  A well of defensive unpleasantness bubbled up in me, as I took a mental inventory of all the very judgmental and personal jabs I could take at them.  It was a challenging sale, and we had sometimes struggled to remain gracious.  All of those moments when we had to remind one another to be kind, to let things go, and to be generous rather than stingy, were suddenly overwhelmed by a vicious instinct to lash out and harm the people who had turned an adult financial transaction into neighborhood gossip and schoolyard bullying.

As I was about to surrender to my anger and injured pride, and arm my daughter with a slew of nasty responses she could use if it came up again, my husband saved the moment by asking her how she had responded.  She said matter-of-factly that she had told the girl, “Oh, so you must think moving is easy.  And then she told the other kids who were listening to the exchange, “What?  Did they live in a hotel before?  They can’t clean their own bathroom?”

I could have cried.  I felt so much admiration for her.  She did everything the school counselor says to do with bullies.  She stood up for herself; she disarmed them with humor.  She didn’t take it, but she didn’t escalate the situation either.  I could not have provided her with a better response than she came up with all on her own.  She was the tough but gracious person I wish I was – and she’s only ten years old.

I am embarrassed by the ugliness I felt about the situation and by the defensiveness I’m still battling.  I am tempted even now to give you all the reasons why I think we are nicer people than them.  I am just not as good or confident a person as my daughter is.  She is a class act.  And I have a lot to learn from her.

We work hard with our own hands to feed ourselves. When people insult us, we ask God to bless them. When people treat us badly, we accept it.  When people say bad things about us, we try to say something that will help them. But people still treat us like the world’s garbage—everyone’s trash. 1 Corinthians 4:12-13


  1. What a sweet, smart, amazing kid. You must be doing something right, dear friend.

  2. I may have other things to offer, but I stink at conflict; in this case, it must be her dad.