With a smirk, my husband motions his hand for me to follow him into the kitchen. He shows me an open bag of mini-marshmallows on the shelf and begins to inform me of the afternoons events.
I'd been out of the house, and Olivia had grabbed the bag of marshmallows and wandered into the living room, asking Joel if she could have some.
"Not right now, Honey. Not before dinner."
She hung her head and looked at the ground. Before returning to the pantry, she looked back at him and very confidently said "Ok, well, then I'm just gonna hold the bag."
Lets pause for a moment here.
"I'm just gonna hold the bag."
We all know exactly what this means, do we not? In fact, the minute I heard Joel say that line, I knew what the outcome would be. I laughed out loud with anticipation to hear the story resolve exactly the way I knew it would. I mean, seriously, who among us can "just hold the bag." That's what I thought.
Where would he find her, elbow deep in marshmallow-land?
A few all-to-quiet moments pass, and Joel looks around, with his daughter nowhere to be found.
Then he hears a faint *crinkle, crinkle* of plastic coming from the kitchen pantry.
With the pantry door halfway shut, he finds his little curly-topped girl standing there, still, with the bag clutched to her chest.
One thing you should know about Joel is that he has the kindest, most even-toned voice of any guy I've ever known. Even when he's upset, he never yells. So in this moment, I can just hear him, calm as ever, saying:
"Olivia, did you eat one when I told you not to?"
Her head shakes no.
"You sure about that answer, Sweetheart?"
Now is when Joel gets down on her level and very softly says: "Olivia.... I need you to open your mouth. Show me whats in your mouth, please."
That was all it took. A look from Dad at eye-level and a call to action.
Two little tiny hands moved up towards her mouth and covered it, as if to form a barrier no one could remove. Her eyes welled with tears.
Oh, how well I know this feeling! The guilt! Sure, it starts out as marshmallows in a pantry... but wait until shes in grade school! And high school! And College! Oh...not College! :-) I take that back.
The circumstances change (and heighten) as we get older - and the consequences become much more severe than a tummy-ache from a fist-full of marshmallows... but the underlying issue remains the same. We do the things we are not supposed to do. Our father says one thing, we do another.
Olivia began to cry. She couldn't bear the thought of opening her mouth to show Joel what she'd done.
He scooped her up and hugged her and said something like "If we eat marshmallows when we're not supposed to, we get a stomach ache. And when we eat them after daddy tells us not to, we get in trouble. But today...well, today...we'll let it slide." And he wiped her tears.
Grace. In a kitchen pantry. Between a daddy and a daughter. :-)
I can't imagine a lesson on guilt ending in a better way.