Attitude and tomatoes, what do they have in common? Both attitudes and tomatoes can have a sweet, savory and full of sunshine flavor in common; like when children are getting along and listening to their parents, or when we are listening to what God is telling us and doing what He asks of us. Think back a couple months to that first luscious tomato that you picked from your garden. It was warm from the summer sun and when you sliced it that sweet, tangy sent wafted up into your nose filling you with intense, mouth-watering pleasure. A different tomato, a month or so later, that is laying on the ground is now not quite the same. Oh, it may still be warm, but not necessarily from the sun, but from decomposing. It won't smell sweet, tangy and savory if you slice it. In fact you may be lucky to be able to pick it up because it is now rotting and slicing it will likely send you scrambling for some fresh air, while your mouth is watering for a whole other reason. Attitudes can be a lot like those tomatoes, one day sweet, savory and intensely pleasurable to our hearts and ears, only to turn on us in a day or minute or week to the rotten, yuck that fills us with disappointment, anger and frustration in how to deal with it and correct it.
We've had to adjust some attitudes around here just this last week or so. Things had finally come to a head and Momma wasn't happy. We all know how true the saying is, "If Momma ain't happy, ain't nobody happy." Things weren't so sweet and savory on the obeying, respecting and listening front with not just one, but both kids. With Andy on the road, I was quickly getting to my wit's end. Maybe, just maybe, had it not been going on for more than a week or two, I might not have had to go to such drastic measures. I had been tired from fighting off a sinus infection and being Mom and Dad both, a daunting job for which I'm grateful to not have to do on a full-time basis. First, God gave me an attitude adjustment from my sweet friends on Facebook whose husbands are serving in our military. They didn't even say anything, other than posting how they are dealing with their days, doing what needs done, getting things done, and occasionally they'll have a rough day of missing their sweetie and post that. Wake up call for me, who gets to see her sweetie a couple days, thank you to a boss who doesn't want them logging too many hours in the combine for safety reasons, each week. I decided I have no room to whine, not much. Then I'm reminded of my girlfriends who are single parents and do this daily 365, 24/7. I do exactly what my Father in Heaven has been waiting for, I call Him up for some ideas. He is so awesome at answering. We had just harvested everything that was ready in the garden the day before, picking all the green Roma tomatoes and pulling up the cages, composting the plants, dug potatoes, picked the peppers and green beans. I knew when we quit that there was still some cleaning up to do, but thought I would get it later. God said, nope the kids can get it later. Have them pick up the rotten tomatoes from the beds if they continue with the bad attitudes. The battle plan was drawn, prayers continued to go up, not only from me, but also from my dear friends.
The next morning they emerged from bed one on his own, the other had to be woke up for breakfast. At breakfast I let them both know that today, starting right then, the attitudes would need to be adjusted or I had big plans for them in order to help straighten them out. There would be no disrespectful tones, facial expressions or actions, that I expected them to be polite to each other and to absolutely not try to be the parent, but remember that I was the parent and let me deal with it before they try to parent. Boy was I tired of saying, "You aren't the parent I am." I couldn't even inhale to start talking usually before they were parenting, you know? I sent them up to make beds, straighten rooms, brush teeth, get dressed for the day and be back down for Worldview class. So far so good. Everything was done on time. During Worldview, the first one fell;caving under the disgruntled frustration of not wanting to do school. I was able to calmly state that after class he would need to see me for the work I had planned. Not more than maybe 10 minutes later the other one fell to the parenting issue. Calmly a second time I stated that after I was done with the first the second one would get her assignment.
Inside I was grinning from ear to ear, waiting to see how this would play out. I took the first one out to the garden and said you will need to choose one of the two beds that had tomatoes in them. So the bed was picked.
"Your job," I stated, "is to pick up all the rotten tomatoes out of the bed and put them in a bucket. I want even the tomato skins that are there picked up as well."
Nodding of the head, "Okay, I'll go get my gloves...".
"Oh, no, you don't get gloves." A perplexed and kind of yucky look came over the face. "I want you to feel the squishy, slimy, yuck of the rotten tomato. As you put it in the bucket I want you to think about how gross and yucky that feels. That is what God feels like and I feel like when you are disobedient and disrespectful to me or when you try to parent. So as you throw the bucket of rotten tomatoes in the trash can, because we don't want any of the disease that may be there to get into the compost and come back next year, I want that rotten attitude thrown in the trash as well. When you are finished, come get me to check it, if it is all done right, then you can get back to school."
A big sigh, and shoulders have slumped a bit; the work began. It didn't take long, maybe 15 minutes at the most and I was back out checking the work. An excellent job had been done, not one bit of tomato remained. I told him that he had done and excellent job and to remember the rotten tomatoes when he wanted to have that rotten attitude. I also let him know that I had other, nasty jobs in my head for repeat offenders, just in case he wondered.
I go in and get the second child and repeat the instructions for the job at hand. Again I was asked about gloves and again I explained the whole rotten attitude concept into the trash can and wanting them to feel how yucky that really feels. A resigned sigh, this time, however, no rolling of eyes, and the work was also done excellently. I praised the worker again and sent her in to get started on some other school work.
I did have to get my half-bath cleaned later that day. Notice I said, have to as I sit here chuckling. Care to guess which one took on that wonderful task? Yep, that would be the strong-willed one. The awesome news is that the rest of the day went so much better.
The sweet, tangy, pleasurable scent of a good attitude, like the fresh sweet tomato is still permeating our house. The rotten tomatoes are in the trash can which will get taken to the curb on Monday night, by one of the kids, not sure whose on for that night, since Andy will be on the road and it is usually his job. I'm hoping to continue to grow some excellent attitudes over the coming year to fill our lives and hearts with. I want those to shine for Jesus and not the rotten tomato attitudes.