Sunday, September 23, 2012

Brats and Biters

On Thursday morning we have our Young Women’s group.  While Daisy works with the women inside, I attempt crowd control with their children outside. 
This past week we had a dozen kids, ranging in age from 10 months up to ten years.  I handed out coloring pages and set out a big plastic container of crayons.  Silence reigned… for three or four glorious minutes. 
Then, it all started.  Even though there were hundreds of crayons, Melisa (nearly 3) decided she wanted the crayon another girl had, and grabbed it out of her hand.  The kids of El Callejon learn early how to take care of themselves.  The other girl gave Melisa a smack and took her crayon back.  Melisa went into a fury, screaming and hitting.

Toting the baby I was holding, I stepped in and pulled Melisa away.  She was not happy, and tried to bite me.  I’ve had enough experience with Melisa to know this was coming. 
You see, both Melisa and her younger brother (almost 2) are biters.  Their way of getting their way is by hitting, kicking, pulling hair, crying, screaming, and biting.  Hard.

I moved Melisa away from the other girl and turned my back to check on another group of kids.  Dumb. Melisa jumped up and went back into action.  She grabbed a fistful of the hair of the girl who’d smacked her, and held on tight. 
I gave the baby to one of the older girls and went to pry her hands open.  Mouth wide, she alternated between screaming in anger and trying to bite me. 
Over and over again I thought I’d got her calm, only to have her go at it again when I turned my attention to someone else.     
As frustrated as I was with her, I also felt incredibly sad.  This little girl carries so much anger.  Her mother had her when she was only 16, and so doesn’t have the maturity to know how to care for her children.  Even when they are screaming and disrupting everyone around them, she hardly takes notice.  Is it any wonder Melisa acts out? 

It suddenly occurred to me that instead of trying to chase behind Melisa breaking up fights, there was another way.  I picked her up and sat down on the ground with my arms around her, slowly rocking her back and forth.
For the first while, she fidgeted and fussed.  Then, slowly but surely, she settled down.  She started relaxing, her small body sliding further and further down until she was laying along on my legs, snuggling into me, her head resting on my stomach.  Gone was the furious biter, replaced by a tranquil little girl.  All she needed, it seemed, was to be held.

As I sat rocking, I thought about how much like Melisa I so often am.  When I forget that I am beloved and cherished, I, too, ‘act out’.  Oh, I’m too grown up to actually hit and bite!  But, my insecurity does show up in harsh words, frustration, discouragement.  Although I crave love and acceptance, I, too, can act like a brat, lashing out at others.
Jesus came, He wraps us in His arms, holds us close.  It is only in Him that we can find our true worth.  He invites us to stop all of our striving and struggling and lashing out, and just be with Him.  Surrounded by His love, we can begin to relax and rest. 

When it was time to leave, Melisa was much more peaceful.  I also find that when I have that connection with Jesus, I am much more able to cope with the stuff of my days.  Not because it is necessarily better, but because I have been reminded of who I am… and in Whom I have my true value.
Next week I hope to get to Melisa before the fighting starts.  I’m hoping if she gets some positive attention, some affection, she won’t start biting.  Sadly, once a week is likely not enough to make huge changes in her behavior. 

For us, too, spending time with Jesus just every once in a while is not enough.  The world tells us we aren’t measuring up, that we need to do more, strive more, be more, each and every day. 
And so, each and every day, we need to spend time with Jesus.  After all, He came to redeem brats and biters, and sinners like you and me.   


  1. This is beautiful. So glad the Spirit interceded in that crazy moment.

  2. This is beautiful. So glad the Spirit interceded in that crazy moment.

  3. Thank you for sharing today! What a precious gift you are to these children. Never ever underestimate what a positive word or touch can do. And the reminder that we are all brats and biters is so so true. So grateful for God's grace to me!