“Why is there screaming?” I screamed back from the living room. No answer. More screaming. Irritated beyond words, I set my laptop aside and groaned my way up to my feet, stumbling into the kitchen in time to see the two older siblings flailing arms, butter knives and forks in each other’s faces. They were also still screaming.
“Stop it, stop it, STOP IT!” I yelled. “No more touching—no TOUCHING—! Hands to yourselves, boys!” They seemed subdued for the moment, so I retreated back to my computer. A moment later, the screams ensued once more.
“Hey, hey, HEY!!!” They looked up at me with less terror than I would have preferred as I rounded the corner. This time, they weren’t actually touching each other—the older boy was now throwing objects (like napkins and salt shakers) at his brother, and therefore not technically breaking my former dictum. I was livid.
“Okay, guys, seriously—? No throwing. NO THROWING! If I see you throwing anything at each other again, there will be consequences!” Sullen looks from unconvinced eyes. I sighed, daring to believe there would now be peace. I hadn’t walked more than two steps into the next room before the screams began once more. I wheeled around and just sat there, disbelieving what my eyes beheld. No touching. No throwing. But now, the older boy was tormenting my younger son to the point of shrieks by pre…tend…ing to throw dangerous objects at his head. I was about to completely lose it and issue yet another demandment-commandment when it occurred to me that, given the hyper-literalism children seem to be born with, this scenario had the potential to continue repeating itself for quite some time. Unless… unless I cut to the chase and spelled out the bigger picture.
“Look, boys,” I said calmly (I was proud of my calm), “The idea is that I don’t want you guys to do anything to each other that hurts the other person. Got it? Anything.” They stared at me for a moment before nodding solemnly, as if for the first time comprehending the very purpose of life itself, or perhaps just stunned into silence by the devastating limits of my new guidelines. And I nodded too, thinking of God’s 10 commandments and the hundreds of other rules, of every additional ‘do’ or ‘do not’ found in the Bible that can really just be summed up in one sentence for us hyper-legalistic children of God in a short variety of ways—‘Don’t do anything to each other that hurts the other person. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Love one another.’
"So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets." (Matthew 7:12)
P.S. I’m not saying my boys listened.
Surrounded by Grace,