She was just 4. My daughter had an ear infection, or something that needed medication. We’d just returned from the pharmacy with the prescription. The pediatrician had asked if my daughter could take pills. While she’d never done it before, I answered, “Sure, why not?” I mean, how hard could it be?
The time came for her to take the small pill. We stood in the kitchen, me on my knees in front of her small face. She listened carefully as I described exactly what she was to do.
I knew that if I didn’t leave the room, I might do something I would really regret.
“Put the medicine way back on your tongue—as far as you can reach. Then drink the water.” I handed her the cup of water as I gave the directions. My husband and her sister gathered around to watch. This was going to be a momentous achievement! We were ready to high-five and congratulate her on how grown-up she was.
In went the pill. Up went the cup. In went the water. And just as fast, out it came as she spit the entire contents of her mouth directly into my face. Shocked, I stood up quickly and reacted even more quickly. “No! You’re supposed to swallow the water with the pill!”
Heavy sigh. I hadn’t added that part to the instructions. My fault. I’ll be clearer. So, again kneeling in front of her, I addressed the solemn little face with the large watchful eyes. This time I was careful to add, “And swallow the water with the pill.”
In went the pill. Up went the cup. In went the water. And out it came, full barrel right in my face. This time I wasn’t as sanguine. I’m sure I raised my voice a notch, reemphasized the directions, and delivered a new pill.
In went the pill. Up went the cup. In went the water. And for a third time, I was completely soaked. You’d have thought I had learned that kneeling in front of her wasn’t the wisest choice. But I had not. Unfortunately, my anger peaked. I yelled something at her and literally stomped out of the room, down the hall, to my bedroom where I slammed the door. It wasn’t my best moment. But I knew that if I didn’t leave the room, I might do something I would really regret. I don’t remember the rest of the evening, but the medicine obviously didn’t get taken. One thing I do remember: I did not apologize.
I walked into the kitchen the next morning to see the pill bottle sitting on the counter. I realized that we were going to have to do it all over again. That’s when I heard a happy voice behind me. “Hi, Mommy!” My daughter emerged around the corner, carrying our large umbrella from the hall closet, just about as big as she was. “I’m ready to take my pill. I thought you might need this,” she said, smiling.
I can’t tell you how small I felt that morning. I was the adult, the one who should have the most understanding, with the best ability to sort through problem situations. In my superior attitude I had lost my temper, demonstrating in the process the worst possible example to a child. In turn, she came in complete forgiveness, a smile lighting up her eyes, bringing something that would help me in the situation. I’ve never been more humbled. Nor have I ever forgotten that moment. I dropped to my knees, embraced her, apologized, then called the doctor. We would need a new prescription—liquid this time, please.
“And he said: ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven’” (Matt. 18:3).
Merle Poirier is operations manager for Adventist Review Ministries.