That is how many pencils we carried into her classroom the last week of August.
We placed 72 yellow, No. 2 pencils into the communal pencil bin in the classroom where all the pencils go to be happily shared among the entire fourth grade classroom.
That’s how it really works. You don’t buy the supplies for your own child. You buy them for the classroom.
In years past, I didn’t know that top-secret information and I had foolishly assumed that when my kid needed a pencil, she would use one of the pencils I had sent in for her.
But now, armed with the full insider’s knowledge of a truly experienced Super Mom, I had stocked her own desk this year with about 15 or so pencils as a secret stash. These were the rainbow-colored, glittery, fancy pencils I had purchased special, just for her, unique, not-for-sharing.
Not only that, we had sat on the couch the day before and hand-sharpened that secret stash of super-cool pencils so that she wouldn’t be caught with an unsharpened pencil, thereby ensuring her success in fourth grade.
This is in addition to the 72 pencils we bought for the actual, official school supply list.
So, what is that? Something around 90 pencils placed in her classroom the week before school started.
Maybe that’s why I went a little Mom-crazy when she announced she didn’t have any pencils she could use just three weeks after school started.
This precious child climbed into the very back of the minivan after school and hollered up to me in the front, over top of the ambient noise of three other children, “Mom, do you think you can get me some mechanical pencils?”
Didn’t I just buy you 72 pencils? And then another 15 or so on top of that? Hadn’t we both pre-sharpened pencils to put into your desk so you would have a supply of ready-to-use writing utensils? Hadn’t I ended up with blisters on my hands from said pencil sharpening?
What happened to the 90 pencils we’ve already sent?
I ask her to explain the deep mysteries of this Bermuda Triangle of school supplies. How can 90 pencils go into the classroom and disappear within about 20 days of school?
Now, I am fully aware as I totally overreact in the driver’s seat of my minivan that I could purchase the requested mechanical pencils for her for about $2 at the Wal-Mart without any commentary about the injustice of the entire pencil supply situation.
However, I feel a Mom-Speech coming on and I feel powerless to stop it.
I mean, it’s the principle of the thing.
Can I get an Amen?
As I pepper her with questions, zinging them at her one after another, I think that I should have been a lawyer. My logic is impeccable. My persistence unmatched. My sense of justice praiseworthy.
I am on the roll of all rolls.
But I stop.
I suck in my breath.
I never meant this to turn into a cross-examination with my poor child on a witness stand defending her history of pencil use.
And yet it has.
So, the prosecution rests.
Later, she tells me that she has some of those pencils still in her desk, but they just don’t sharpen well. The lead continually breaks on her, even while she still has the sharpener in her hand. It takes so much time, she tells me. She thought some mechanical pencils will be easier.
I admit. They just don’t make pencils like they used to. These cheap pencils might look so glitzy on the outside, but that lead is always breaking and they never seem to sharpen just right.
I go to the store. I pay $2. I buy mechanical pencils with extra thick lead so they don’t break all the time.
I bring them home. She finds them on the counter after school and thanks me with a hug.
Mom crisis ended.
But I think…
How many of my mistakes as a mom and as a woman would be avoided if I responded instead of reacted?
Even if she was tossing those pencils into the trashcan and wasting them out of foolishness and irresponsibility, surely my best response would be quiet grace and gentle correction, not a tidal wave of Mom-justice.
He who has knowledge spares his words,
And a man of understanding is of a calm spirit (Proverbs 17:27 NKJV).
Less words….more understanding….more calm, that’s wisdom and wisdom is what I want.
Lord, help us to respond and not react. Help us to take time for wisdom-seeking and prayer instead of saying whatever comes into our head right away. Forgive us for the times we’ve hurt others with our words. May “the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight” (Psalm 19:14 NKJV). Amen.
Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader. Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness. Her book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, is available now! To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.
Copyright © 2014 Heather King