“Mom and Dad, do you know what’s in our backwash?” This, the question posed to us one evening by our six-year-old daughter. A smart parent might’ve ignored the bait, but, I’m always curious how her brain works so I played right along.
“Tee hee hee,” she covered a giggle with her hand. “It’s barf!”
“Interesting.” I picked up my spoon. “But that’s not really appropriate talk for the dinner table.”
“What do you mean?” She looked at me and blinked her eyes.
“I mean we don’t talk about barf during meal time.” Suddenly my bowl of chili lost its charm. Our daughter’s jaw slacked and she wrinkled her eyebrows, confused.
“Mom means some people are sensitive to gross things,” my husband jumped in. “Especially when they’re eating.”
She turned her head from her dad to me, then back to her dad again.
“I don’t get it.”
Yep. That’s our girl.
Our second-born is a fearless enthusiast of all things disgusting. She collects bugs from the yard and begs to keep them as pets. When I squish a wasp with the fly swatter, she wants to examine the guts. The tooth fairy never throws away extracted teeth because my sweet girl wants to show them to her friends at school. And when Grandpa comes over with fresh-caught fish from the lake, she pulls up a chair and watches as he chops off the heads.
So when she mentioned barf at the dinner table, it was nothing unusual. Right in line with her personality and interests, really. She couldn’t comprehend why some people might not revel in the thought of upchuck while chewing a spoonful of kidney beans. Finally I told her that kind of talk was simply not polite.
Kind of like tooting in public. Everybody does it, but nobody’s supposed to mention it.
“Oh. Okay,” she said. Fair enough.
Funny for a six-year-old, maybe, but don’t we grown-ups do it, too? When a personal preference or boundary is so ingrained in us, we can fail to comprehend other views.
For example, I take my kids trick-or-treating. Other moms wouldn’t dream of it.
I just scheduled our annual flu shots. Some of you are anti-vaccines.
Half my older daughter’s class is doing sleepovers. Us, not yet. Maybe never.
And let’s not even talk about whether or not to drink wine in front of the kids, what kind of music we allow on the iPod, or at what age we leave our kiddos home alone while Mom and Dad go to a movie.
Different choices for different people.
That does not make them right or wrong.
They’re just different.
Now, big caveat here: Note I’m talking about personal convictions and not core, biblical beliefs. Did you even know those are two different things? We can all agree that Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life (biblical conviction) but disagree on whether or not to feed our children hot dogs (personal conviction).
One makes us Christians. The other just makes us opinionated.
I’m telling you right now, we Kopitzkes love a good hot dog on occasion.
Does that mean you and I can’t be friends?
I certainly hope not.
Because I’ll tell you something else. If you feed your kids exclusively organic food and you entrust your child to me for a dinner visit, I will not serve your child a hot dog. I will respect your personal convictions.
Or if you teach your kids the tooth fairy is real, I will not allow my enlightened children to spoil the fun.
And when your child comes to my child’s birthday party and says she’s not allowed to dance, or eat ice cream, or take home the treat bag filled with chocolate—then I will commend her for following your rules away from home. I’ll help her do it. I won’t criticize you for having different standards. I’ll support them.
And I hope you’d do the same for me and my kids.
Why? Because as believers we are to respect one another’s boundaries and not get in the way.
“Yes, each of us will give a personal account to God. So let’s stop condemning each other. Decide instead to live in such a way that you will not cause another believer to stumble and fall” (Romans 14:12–13).
Now, about that barf talk. I’m working on it. Soon I expect my daughter will realize that not everybody can stomach gross subjects, nor should they. But until then? Maybe don’t invite her over for dinner. It’s just easier that way.