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Sunday, January 20, 2008

searching for the Parent In Charge

Our little Tongginator caused a bit of a ruckus at our new church this morning. At times she likes to put on a Sunday Show, but only after she completely consumes her single "coffee hour bagel." Church bagels with cream cheese are very important, as I'm sure you know. They and the watered-down lemonade are high on her list of priorities. We typically run (not walk) out of church the minute she pops the last bite into her mouth, but today our church hosted a Small Group Fair. As we are not currently in a small group ... well, you can sense our dilemma.

The after-church meltdown began about two minutes after her last swallow of lemonade. It didn't look pretty. The result: time-out in a corner, right next to the door of the women's bathroom. I stood two feet away, with my back to her and my arms crossed, wearing the resigned look of parent who has experienced more than her fair share of public parenting drama.

Typically, in a situation like this, observers zero in on the child sitting forlornly in the corner and then widen the search until they spot the Parent In Charge. The on-lookers then turn away, wearing small grins that tell others, 'Been there, done that.'

But our family is anything but typical. I forget that sometimes. In a new setting, where we aren't a known quantity, people don't automatically connect us with our daughter. It happened this morning. A very kind Christian woman approached my daughter, who (I must say) pouted so prettily. This kind woman wanted to make sure our Tongginator wasn't lost. I turned, gave the woman a grin and said, "I think she's rather be lost, but she's in time out." The woman reacted with embarrassment, apologizing, and I replied, "oh, you're fine" with another smile. The woman disappeared into the bathroom and that was the end of it.

At least, that was the end of it until I glanced at my daughter. Our Tongginator wore a puzzled expression on her little face as she tried to understand: why didn't the woman automatically know I was the Parent In Charge? She opened her mouth, I think to ask the question, but instead I quickly knelt down, asking her, "Are you ready to try again?" Successfully distracted, she said yes; we hugged; and off we went to find Daddy.

Our Tongginator may have been ready to ask that question today, but I wasn't ready to answer it.