It was much like a scene from a haunted house on Halloween. With my hand deep inside the bag, my fingers discovered something utterly disgusting. Managing to get hold of it with my thumb and index finger, I gently raised the unidentified object towards the top of the sack. As it emerged, I realized the mysterious item was a very old mushy banana now oozing from all sides of its cracked, brown peel.
Please understand -- this would have been wildly amusing if it had indeed been ghoulish fun at the annual Halloween bash and not my 8-year-old son's school bag I found sitting in the middle of our living room on a Wednesday afternoon.
"Michael-Keith-Patterson...what is this?" I shrieked while trying to keep the disintegrating fruit from falling off my fingers onto the floor.
"Woops," said Michael as his little legs scrambled into the kitchen to grab a wad of wet paper towels.
"Oh there it is...I was looking all over for that banana!" he said with a nervous chuckle while pulling banana-coated textbooks from his soiled backpack.
"What in the world, Michael, is a banana doing in your backpack?" I asked, flabbergasted at my child's latest gaffe. "And, how many times have I asked you to check your bag every night?"
Knowing from experience the ineffectiveness of answering such questions during heated moments such as these, Michael simply shrugged his shoulders.
"Please, go to your room," I ordered harshly in frustration.
Five minutes later I entered Michael's bedroom and took a seat at the edge of his soft bed.
"Sorry, mom," he said with a sweet little smile that never failed to turn down my fire.
"I'm sorry, too," I said, already regretting yet another lackluster performance as that elusive wise and patient parent.
I stared into his eyes for a few seconds. Michael meekly awaited his fate, fully aware of the fork in the road set before us. The question at hand: Would I choose to take the road on the left or the road on the right?
On the left was a road paved with anger and striped with impatience -- a road that would lead to Michael being grounded and alone in his bedroom for the rest of the evening. The one on the right was a road built upon a pillar of peace and sealed with forgiveness -- one that would offer grace to the offender, and open the door for tranquility's return.
While still pondering my choice, Michael made his. He sat up in his bed, leaned forward and planted a kiss on my cheek, giving me the tightest squeeze ever. "I'm really, really sorry, mom," he whispered.
I knew that he was.
Michael always had this special knack for resolving conflict -- and quickly, too. It was a real gift. I mean this child was able to diffuse sticky situations faster than Michael Phelps at the Water Cube in Beijing.
How had my little boy learned to negotiate life's challenges so well? It surely wasn't an attribute that came naturally to me, as evidenced this very afternoon.
As Michael's sweet apology penetrated my soul, I squeezed him back, lingering in the moment as long as I could. As I held his tiny frame in my arms, my eyes snagged the ceramic cross that adorned the wall above his pillow. I closed my eyes and thanked the world's greatest Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ, for this special child of peace.
"Alright, Mikey, let's go and wipe down those books together" I said, pulling him off his bed and onto his feet.
"But, do NOT let this happen again," I added, exerting a touch of parental prowess purely for effect.
As we walked out of his room, Mikey wrapped his little arm around my waist.
"What's for dinner?" he asked with renewed vigor.
"Not sure yet," I replied. "But I do know what's for dessert..."
"Oooooh....what?" asked Mikey.
"Banana bread," I announced with a giggle -- so happy that we had chosen the right side of the fork in the road.
Better a dry crust with peace and quiet than a house full of feasting, with strife.
Proverbs 17:1 (NIV)
Sherrie is a believer in Jesus Christ, a wife, a mother and a freelance writer. She resides with her family on the island of Oahu in Hawaii, where she was born and raised.