Another guest post from BCC’s friend S.P. Bailey.
Brent played tee-ball. When he tried to get under the ball (he wanted a hit that sailed well over the infielders’ heads) his bat usually struck the thick rubber tee with a thud. The ball would leap from the tee, landing softly in the area covered by the pitcher who didn’t pitch. It was an unintentional bunt, and it was embarrassing. Brent was six and he weighed sixty-two pounds. He considered himself a power hitter.
The door to the den (virtually always locked) was left open one day. His father was at work, so Brent investigated. There were shelves of books, most he had never seen either parent reading. There were stacks of records with pictures of people with hair and beards and costumes he had never seen on a live adult. The built-in cabinet on the right held the slide projector and countless brown boxes of slide-trays. He wanted to look at some of last summer’s snapshots (Disneyland) but didn’t know how.
The built-in cabinet on the left held white boxes, narrow and long. He pulled some out and read the hand-written labels: Topps 1981, Fleer 1982. Baseball cards. Brent emptied a box on the floor. He examined each picture, sorting the cards into power hitters and the rest. Some he folded in half and stuffed in his back pocket. Some he marked with a pen from the desk. Most he put back.
Three weeks later. Brent was watching Saturday morning cartoons. “Where the hell is he?” he heard his father scream. Soon his father was dragging him by his shirt into the den. “Have you been in my baseball cards?” Brent considered lying, but his hesitating downward glance betrayed him. “Frak you,” his father hissed. Brent apologized. “A lot of good that does me!” his father bellowed. “Do you have any idea how much these are worth? More than you could ever make.” Brent apologized again. “Get out of my face.” Brent just stood there. “Get out!”
Twenty-five years later. Eating lunch at his desk at work, Brent stumbles onto an article about baseball cards. He is mildly amused: it turns out that they are essentially worthless.
Months later. Home from work, Brent comes in the garage door. Martha, his four year old, sits on the couch. She has been crying.
“Tell him what you did,” Brent’s wife Lisa says. “Tell him.”
“I broke your bowl,” Martha says. “I was playing water. I’m sorry, Daddy!”
“My bowl?” Brent says.
Lisa produces a traditional drum Brent brought home from Brazil. A man Brent baptized on his mission made it by hand. The wood is split in several places. “Martha was playing in the bathroom sink,” Lisa says. “I’ve told her a thousand times not to play in the sink. The drum was upside down and full of water when I got to her.”
Brent is angry. He is, generally speaking, not the ideal father. Sometimes he has a temper, and sometimes he says the wrong thing. Baseball cards. That is his first thought. He tells Martha that she broke something special to him. He tells her that he is disappointed in her. He sends her to her room. “I’m sorry, Daddy!” she cries. Again he thinks: baseball cards.
“Go to your room,” he says. “I will be up in a minute. We will talk about a punishment. I love you, Martha. You are a good girl. I will forgive you.”
* * *
More fiction. Parents must discipline their children. When they do so–when their children make mistakes that call for discipline–parents should not miss the chance to teach the Atonement. To teach children the simple idea that they can be forgiven. Any thoughts, personal experiences, whatever, on teaching the Atonement when disciplining children?