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  • Susan Brown

Children: Our little mirrors, God’s little spies…

“Grandma say, ‘no, no, no,’ Molly said. Her brown-almost-black eyes flashed with anger.  She tossed the dress down on the counter and marched off.

I couldn’t believe it.  My whole precious free day and all my catching-up plans went down the drain. I chose, instead, to give the time to Molly.  She was out of school for the day and wanted to go shopping. I knew she had allowance money saved up, and being reminded that people are more important than projects, I scrapped my plans and we took off for the mall.

At first the trip was delightful.  She soon found something she wanted and smilingly presented it at the counter.  She looked expectantly at me.

“Where is your money?” I asked her, puzzled.

“Money bank,” she said. “Grandma suu.”  From this combination of English and Thai we have adapted in order to communicate, I gathered that she was saving her money in her piggy bank. Grandma was expected to fund the outing today.  Grandma was not pleased.

I love buying Molly things, but I don’t want her to be greedy.  Besides, right now she is our only little girl, but we hope to have other children soon. It’s not wise to start a trend we won’t be able to afford to keep up.  And Molly never stops.

There is a cultural norm here called “grange-ai.”  When you have it, you don’t want to cause people any trouble. The boys have too much of it.  They won’t tell us about things they need until they absolutely must.  For example, I couldn’t figure out why Preston wore his old shirt instead of one of the new ones.  I finally discovered that he had to have his name and the name of the school embroidered on it before he could wear it. He wore his old threadbare one rather than ask me to have it done. At the grocery store they refuse to even express a preference for noodle flavors and never ask me to buy anything.

Molly, however, has a notable lack of “grange-ai.”  She is persistent about making her wants and needs known and she doesn’t quit until she gets her way. I understand that.  She was abandoned as a very young child.  She grew up in a children’s home where her needs were not met, or met grudgingly.  She survived.  Working with children in the foster care system in the US, I frequently saw this trait in children who survived abuse and neglect.  They learned to take care of themselves. Some became expert thieves, and others learned to become so obnoxious that even the people who didn’t care for them would give in to shut them up.

But now we have the task of teaching her not to beg and not to throw tantrums when she doesn’t get what she wants right away.  A real challenge when you can’t use words because you don’t have enough between you to express anything very deep.

I was determined that our day would not be wasted, so I gave her 100 baht (about three dollars, and a lot of money to kids here). She grudgingly accepted it and soon had spent the money.  And wanted more.  She wanted me to buy clothes for her that were inappropriate and the wrong size.  She wanted movies that were not appropriate for her to watch. She wanted…well, you get the picture.

Then she was angry, because I said, “no, no, no.”

I learned so much about my relationship with God from my children when they were little.  What a blessing that now, in my older years, I get a refresher course from a new set.

Like Molly, I am often guilty of ingratitude.  God, after all, owes me nothing.  He reached out and rescued me when I was rebellious and His enemy.  He showered me with good things.  So why am I complaining?  If He says, “no, no, no,” I should trust that it is because I am asking for things that I don’t need, or that don’t fit His plans for me, or that are not good for me.

Someday, I hope that Molly will get to that point –that she will trust me enough to believe I will always give her what she needs.  She doesn’t have to fight me about it. I will only say “no, no, no,” for a good reason.

By the time we got home, her bad mood was over, as it usually is, and she gave me a hug.  “Thank you, Grandma,” she said. “We shop tomorrow?”

Well, probably not.

Blessings from Thailand,


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