We're driving home, and Reese is making it adamantly clear that she's hungry. Oh, how she's hungry. It's an all-encompassing hunger. She's too hungry to speak about anything else. She's too hungry to be quiet. She's too hungry to be anything but miserable, and she's too miserable to let anyone else not be miserable.
You would think that the child never has been fed before, that her body is cannibalizing itself and she's withering away into nothingness in the backseat.
I'm getting upset.
Her whining isn't acceptable. She's not being grateful. Her exaggeration trivializes the tragic reality that too many children in this world literally are starving.
As I clench my jaw and hold back the there-are-starving-children-in-China retort, I remind myself that she she is five. Although I don't condone her behavior or excuse her bad manners, the reality is that she's doing what she's programmed to do. She's a child, and she's being childish. She doesn't know. As her parents, it's our job to teach her how to express herself without whining, to encourage gratefulness, to be clear with our expectations on acceptable behavior, and to model what's right. It's our job to help her outgrown her childishness, to prevent it from taking root and blossoming from mere childishness into a more pernicious foolishness.
It's a weighty job.
God always seems to work on the character traits in me that I'm working to instill in my children, an irony that doesn't escape me when I grow angry when my children respond to one another in anger, or when I spit out the words Will-you-just-be-patient? to my children as I froth at the mouth and my own impatience flares.
The other day I was cut off in a parking lot. A woman took my parking spot. The audacity! My spot. The parking spot directly beside the shopping cart return so I could more easily corral my three kids into the store and back into our van. The parking spot that I had been waiting for with my brightly blinking turn signal for over a minute as the previous spot-holders unloaded their cart.
But since I'm not five, I have the perspective to think differently about this small slight as I circled around the parking lot again to find an open space.
Yes, I do have three children who I need to unstrap from their car seats and usher into the store on a blustery December day -- but I have three children, healthy ones. Some people do not.
Yes, I do have to walk farther than I would have walked if I had gotten the original spot -- but I have two legs, strong and able ones, that can carry me. Some people do not.
One day Reese will understand this. One day she'll be driving her well-fed children when one complains of unfathomable hunger. She'll no longer be childish, and she'll know how to respond.