My wife and I have a running joke in our marriage as to who is currently “the better person”. It’s a playful dig we use whenever we want to one-up the other. For instance, if she asks me to take out the trash, I’ll say, “Sure, because I’m the better person.” Or if we’re having an argument and I’m losing, (which happens pretty much every time), I’ll say, “I’ll give up, because I’m the better person”. It’s a fun, quirky thing to mess with each other, (but we all really know I’m the better person).
We joke around, but as parents there can be no gray areas when it comes to being the better person. We are called to be the moral example and standard for our kids. We may not like that responsibility, but there’s nothing we can do about it.
Here’s a great example of what not to do. My daughter is on a softball team this Spring. We haven’t won any games all season. It’s been painful as a parent to watch, but we go, cheer, and get through it. Last week our coach was clearly not the better person. In the middle of the game there was a close play at third and our runner got out. The coach, to use a southern phrase, “lost his ever loving mind“. In front of all the kids and their parents, he slammed his glove on the ground and started yelling at the umpire. He got about a foot from the guy’s face and was waving his hands and yelling so that everyone could hear. From my vantage point, the ump got the call right, but even if he didn’t, the coach had no right to act the way he did.
Think about who all could see this spectacle. There were 20 or so nine year old girls watching a grown man throw a temper tantrum. Then you had the parents of the children watching this guy blow his top. If that wasn’t bad enough there were certain parents on our team who decided it would help the situation if they too started screaming at the ump in front of their kids. All of this regarding a softball game that doesn’t matter a speck of dust in the eternal scheme of things. One of the mothers screamed out, “Ref you SUCK!” Because God knows the fate of the world was hanging on whether or not little Mary was safe or out.
It was incredibly embarrassing for all parties involved. It was also showing the children it is okay to behave like a crazy person when things don’t go your way. Eventually order was restored to the game and we lost 24-3, but the greater damage was not what was on the scoreboard, but what was on the minds and hearts of the players and parents.
Look, I’ll admit it. I’ve said and thought stupid things while at Little League games. I get just as involved as the next parent. It’s easy to get emotional when your kids are playing, but it doesn’t make it okay to lose your mind, your temper, or your character. A wise man once said, “It’s better to lose your wallet than your temper,” and I tend to agree, (partially because there’s never anything in my wallet. If you would like to help with that problem, I’m taking donations). Our children are always watching. They see our actions and hear our words. They, (for some unknown reason), look up to us. If we behave like the devil, then they will too. If we strive for integrity, peace, and selflessness, then some of that will rub off on them as well.
I never saw my dad lose his temper. God knows he had every reason to with the way my brother and I acted sometimes, (but mainly my brother). We could always tell he was mad, but he never raised his voice, yelled at us, or lost his cool. One time I ran up a $300 long distance phone bill over the summer while calling my future wife. I will never forget my dad repeatedly walking in and out of the room while holding the bill. All the while he was rubbing his forehead and kept repeating one word over and over again, “Son…son…son”. He could have lost his cool. Heck, he probably should have, but he didn’t and I’ll never forget it.
My dad was the better person that day and it made an impact on me. As parents we can be images of virtue and goodness or we can be standards of meanness, anger, and ugliness. Let’s choose to be the better person. Our kids need us.