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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Crime and Punishment (not about the book) (07/21/11)

TITLE: Large Planks
By jody mcnatt


"Mom....MOm....MOM!" The voice of six year old grew louder and more demanding with each impatient utterance of my name. I had just stepped into the shower. I could hear my son, Connor, lower himself dramatically against the other side of the bathroom door. His lips pushed against crack underneath as he proceeded to unleash a muffled anecdote of injustice which had occurred with his older brother moments before. This boy knew he had his mother’s undivided attention. I was trapped, held captive by a clever, not to mention, completely indignant, child. I was going to hear all the dreadful details of the offense, whether I wanted to or not.

Later that night, while reading and relaxing in my room, my 13 year old came crashing through the door. She was already midstream in a string of atrocities as she plopped down on the bed, “Mom, Sarah TOOK my jewelry box WITHOUT even asking. She just TOOK it and had ALL of my jewelry scattered EVERYWHERE. EV-ER-EEE-WHERE! I found it ALL OVER her room, mixed in with polly pockets and legos and CHEX-MIX! ” She paused, staring hard at my face, making sure the horror of this crime was not lost on me, tired mother relaxing. Her teen-girl eyes carefully gaged my reaction, wanting to be sure Mother was firmly on board, firmly on her side of this fence. “MOM! ARE YOU LISTENING?” She paused again, evaluating. “MOM! What are you going to do about this? WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO ABOUT HER?” Her outraged voice hit a new level of shrill and she theatrically flung herself back against my comforter, completely uncomforted.

We hadn’t even made it through breakfast the next morning when my blanket dragging, two year old came waddling into my quiet, morning kitchen. She stopped at my feet and held up her index finger displaying her great boo-boo. “Coopie did it,” She explained in her tiny, toddler way. The finger looked perfectly fine, Coopie is our dog, and I wasn’t sure what he did, but even the toddler and the congenial golden retriever had been dragged into the family crime report.

For you see, crime runs rampant in our house. With five children (and a dog) in the mix, there is always some mischief brewing and, be assured, always someone ready to report it. To report it quickly, elaborately, and passionately. How many times a day is a child running at me full force to share the mishap or misstep of another stumbling sibling - a belligerent brother or a wayward sister? No gory detail is spared. No time is ever lost in the telling. Determined child on justice seeking mission. No rest for reporter until desired outcome is achieved - Punishment.

As a mother, this bothers me. “Where did we go wrong?” I wonder. What is this thing which propels my children forward in their frenzied finger pointing? I am convinced it has little do with concern for their sibling’s safety or moral development. Instead it is a reflection of our own surly selves. So often we lose the gift of grace in our need to self-righteously run and report something ugly and unfortunate.

And so, desperate mother, types out and tapes to refrigerator door:

“How can you say to your brother, 'Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,'
when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye?
You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye.” ~ Luke 6:42

And for days we stare at it and say little. We take out juice and cheese and mustard and can’t avoid these eye-level words. The children know a discussion must follow. And it does. After a trip to the hardware store, I present them each with their own wooden plank and sharpie. “Let’s copy,” I say. And my sweet hypocrites sit, heads bent together, and write. Reminders of own hefty sin.

Afterwards, they run to me, “We’re finished mom!” The planks are quite large - purposefully so. Brother helps brother. And I watch them head off with unwieldy wood in hand, laughter trailing close behind. For the moment, it is not about crime and punishment, but about kids and planks. It is about love and laughter... and maybe a lesson learned. Arm in arm, partners in crime, they run with nothing bad to report. And mother relaxes.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Jenna Dawn07/30/11
Nice story. Cute, sweet and nicely told.

Great writing. :)
diana kay07/31/11
lovely lovely story!!! had you meant to use the parallel of the planks and the speck of dust in your neighbours eye? either way delightful tale delightfully told. i was right there and look forward for more tales form this lovely family
diana kay08/04/11
yes!! and so you should have been highly commended for this :-) hope this will bring more people to read this
Lois Farrow08/06/11
Great story on family life and learning