I took Jon to Wendy’s fast food restaurant the other day…well…let’s say, I tried.
He emerged from his room in the early afternoon, around 1pm, desperately needing a shower, shave and change of clothes and headed for the garage to get in the car; his signal that, ” I’d like to go someplace now.”
I told him there would be no going anywhere looking like he just crawled out from under a rock. He frowned and shuffled back inside to the bathroom.
By the time we got in the car, Jon had showered, put on clean clothes and it was almost 7:30 pm.
He was also wearing a plastic headband with paper Mickey Mouse ears taped to it, garden gloves and a flowered belt from my closet. Random items were tucked between the belt and his waist, a plastic sword, a drumstick, a long glow stick with a bright red heart on the end and several other unidentified objects.
He handed me a note and I stared at the scrawled print trying to figure out what it said. Considering the way he was decorated, I had a feeling I already knew.
I deciphered the words, DISENI and MIKEY MOSE and realized I was correct. He wanted to go to Disney.
Problem number one, it was already late and we don’t live in Kissimmee anymore. From there, Disney was a fifteen minute drive. Now that we’re located thirty miles north of Orlando, Disney is an hour away, maybe more depending on interstate traffic.
Problem number two, our Disney passes expired several years ago and Jon doesn’t understand it costs a bundle to get in the park and is barely worth the price when you’re staying all day. Forget it if you’re showing up an hour or two before it closes.
I handed the note back, “Sorry Dude, it’s too late to go to Disney now. You took so long getting ready we don’t have much time to go anywhere. How about Wendy’s or McDonalds. They’re both open late.”
He scowled as he took the note back and turned it over. I waited another ten minutes until he finally wrote WEDYS on the back. By the time we pulled into Wendy’s parking lot it was 8:05pm.
I shut off the car and told him that his costume was pretty impressive but “If you don’t want people staring at you all night then you better take all that stuff off and leave it in the car.”
Sometimes he cares about that, other times, not. He carefully took everything off except the flowered belt.
I got out of the car and walked over to wait for him near the door. It was now 8:30.
Jon stayed in the car at least another ten minutes trying to decide what he wanted to bring inside. Finally the door opened and another five minutes passed, then two legs appeared beneath.
After several minutes went by he stood up. He remained statue still in that spot for about five minutes.
He finally shut the door and stayed next to the car for nearly ten minutes, pushing buttons on an imaginary keypad under the door handle.
I pulled out my remote and hit the lock button. The horn beeped. Jon frowned.
It took him another eight minutes to walk from the car to the sidewalk curb. Once he was actually on the sidewalk that led to the entrance, I went inside, sat down at a table near the window and continued to watch his slow progress toward the door.
While I watched, a woman who had passed me thirty minutes prior, as I waited on the sidewalk, finished eating and came back by me to leave. She glanced out the window at Jon, who was slowly making his way to the door in intermittent starts and pauses.
“Are you with him?” She asked.
“Yes.” I forced a smile.
I was hungry and tired of waiting. Honestly, I really wanted to go outside and give my kid a big boot in the behind with my foot to get him moving. It took every ounce of self control I had and a lot of Jesus talking to stay in that chair and keep waiting.
I also realized if someone saw me do that, I’d probably be in handcuffs for assaulting a disabled person in Wendy’s parking lot. So I stayed put and prayed for more patience and grace and tried to put my thoughts on something other than my snail slow child.
“Is he your son?” the woman asked, not waiting for an answer. “I’m a special ed teacher in Orlando,” she continued.”It sure takes a lot of patience sometimes doesn’t it?”
“Yes it does,” I replied, “And I think I’m about to run out if he doesn’t get in here pretty soon.”
I smiled again, hoping she wouldn’t think worse of me for what I’d just said. She was trying to complement me after all.
Her preschool size grandson was pulling on her, stretching her arm so far he slid sideways to the floor. He was ready to go and I found myself wishing Jon was like him; wishing I could be over the agonizing amount of waiting that happens whenever I take Jon any place.
The woman smiled back. “You are a very patient person,” she said.
I was thankful what I was really feeling wasn’t showing on the outside.
I realized then that we easily confuse self control with patience. I was anything BUT patient right then. My ability, by God’s grace, to control myself when I wanted to do anything but had been perceived as patience.
“Thank You God, for self control,” I said out loud to God and myself as she turned to leave.
Self control isn’t a popular topic in our impatient culture but it’s such a crucial foundation to the other character qualities we need. Love, peace, endurance, tolerance, kindness, gentleness, patience all start with putting self aside for the good of another.
Proverbs 25:28 states, “A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls.” Sounds to me like a place left defenseless. Without self control, all boundaries are gone and every destructive thing has access to our life.
My outing with Jon didn’t end any better than it started. He came through the restaurant door at 9:25pm. We ordered by 9:40 and I sat back down while Jon took his time at the soda machine and condiment counter.
I ate quickly and was booting up my laptop, relaxing into a few hours of writing time, when the manager walked back to let me know they were closing.
We had to leave.
“At 10 o’clock?” I asked in disbelief. Hadn’t I seen advertisements, posters and billboards announcing Wendy’s late night hours all over the place?
Jon hadn’t even sat down yet. He was still pumping ketchup into little paper cups.
I sighed, put my laptop away and readied myself for the struggle coming to get him back out the door he had just come through.
Thank God for self control.
Like my good friend Glee always says, “Just ‘cause self control is last on the list doesn’t mean it’s not important,”
Galatians 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control..