“If I’m not showing grace…have I forgotten the grace I’ve been shown?”
–John F. MacArthur
Over the last five days God has given me a lesson in grace. I’ll admit, I struggle to show grace to people when I feel wronged or angry. However, as I have always said, anger is a secondary emotion to something else and this week my “something else” has been fear.
Wednesday afternoon I was working in the cockpit of the boat, soaking the name on our stern in this liquid stuff that burned my nostrils and lungs when I would breathe it in (but it worked!). Vivienne was happily playing around the deck, since I told her not to be right next to me because of the solution I was using, running around with a sure-footedness most adults lack onboard, talking to me and constantly coming back to me. I was always aware of her location on the boat and could see her through the windows in the salon. However, a man across the fairway (the next set of docks over) couldn’t hear any of that but thought what he could see from his vantage point 100 meters away warranted some pretty harsh judgement.
Proof the incredibly smelly solution worked! No name on the stern.
As I was working I heard a voice behind me, “Hey, I need to talk to you and you aren’t going to like what I have to say but I don’t care. I can’t stand to watch you anymore.” Excuse me? Hello, defensive position, at least I had my knife in hand. This man, whom I had never met before in four months of living here, proceeded to tell me how irresponsible I am and how what I am doing by allowing Vivienne to be on deck without a life jacket and a parent beside her is illegal. He then informed me he had video recordings of Vivienne was going to send them to child protective services if he ever saw Vivienne “on deck again without a life jacket and without an adult three feet away” from her. After he harassed and blackmailed me, he barely allowed me to speak two sentences before storming off back down the dock like a child who was pouting. I was absolutely stunned, then extremely angry. My boat neighbor who lives immediately beside me had been outside for this entire ordeal and, as soon as the man was out of earshot, approached me and asked what he said. Once I filled our neighbor in he was also angered at how I was treated because I am not an irresponsible parent and this man was completely out of line. I tried to take a few deep breaths and calm down before heading up to the office to inform them of the situation but by the time I got to the office I was in tears and shaking I was so upset. How dare this man–who doesn’t even know me–judge my parenting from 100 meters away then proceed to blackmail me? WHO DOES HE THINK HE IS AND WHY DOES HE HAVE VIDEOS OF MY CHILD? What a disgusting creep. I can tell him one thing, he surely isn’t God and has no right to judge me.
As soon as I walked into the office the dockmaster knew exactly why I was there. Apparently this guy went to the office and asked them what they were doing to do about my parenting and they told him, “Not a d**n thing because she is a great mom and what she is doing is none of your business.” While I felt better knowing the marina staff immediately had my back and stood up for me by telling him to butt out and not to approach me, I was still greatly bothered by what he had done and the videos of Vivienne. The marina manager went to the man’s boat to have a discussion with him and tell him in no uncertain terms that if he brought CPS into this that man would no longer have a slip at this marina. However, the issue still remained about the videos. By this time I had spoken to TJ–who was absolutely livid over the entire situation but mostly about the videos–and our attorney. Our attorney told me I should’ve told the guy to pound sand but now I could at least ask him to delete the videos.
All evening I was fuming and scared that this man had already contacted CPS. While I know from my social work background there really wasn’t a case to be made, it still worried me that the next morning I could have a case worker and a police officer at my door. As I was trying to take my mind off things by watching copious amounts of Hawaii Five-0 after Vivienne went to bed, an e-mail came in from our marina manager. He asked if we could meet the next morning to discuss the situation that had occurred. I happily jumped on the opportunity to defend myself and explain my side so the meeting was set for 10:00am the next day. Needless to say, I barely slept and decided an Army movie would make me feel courageous and remind me who this guy was dealing with: a strong, intelligent, and protective mama bear. No one threatens me or my parenting. Time to dig up the old Army officer in me who doesn’t take crap.
Thursday morning rolled around and after I took Vivienne to preschool I drove back to the marina for my meeting with our manager. I was so nervous and still very upset about the ordeal when I realized our marina manager wasn’t against me but on my side. He wanted to know what happened when this man approached me and gave me the opportunity to speak for myself, as both Vivienne’s mother and an adult. I couldn’t have been more appreciative. Our manager reaffirmed that from what he has witnessed over the last four months I am a very attentive mother and whenever he sees me on the docks with Vivienne we are “joined at the hip” because I don’t let her run wild and do as she pleases. While our meeting went very well the issue still remained that this man, this very creepy man, had videos of my child on his phone that he took without my knowledge. Seriously, what. a. creeper. Our manager agreed it was highly inappropriate and he would contact the marina’s attorneys to find out how to proceed on getting this creepy man to delete them.
After I left the meeting I had the idea that, rather than putting our manager in the middle, I wanted to handle this head-on and asked our manager to arrange a meeting with the man while our manager acted as a neutral third-party. The e-mail was sent in the morning on Friday and the man, being a coward, didn’t respond to our manager until Sunday afternoon. He was completely avoiding the situation but soon realized I was not going to just let it go. I had already told our manager if this man wouldn’t meet with me and extend me the courtesy to speak for myself he would be receiving a two-and-a-half page letter I wrote to him. Finally the man agreed to meet with me Monday morning…as in tomorrow. He also asked our manager, “What does she think there is to discuss?” What a jerk. I was, again, angered by his haughty attitude but decided no matter what I was going to show him grace–just as I have since he left my boat. God is telling me to show this man the grace that God has shown me…and it is hard.
Saturday evening I showed this man grace when he was walking down the dock and wasn’t going to acknowledge my presence. Telling him, “Good Evening” was one the hardest phrases to ever exit my mouth. It was the last thing in the world I wanted to do but I felt like it was what I needed to do. So I did it. Then Sunday afternoon I did it again. As he was walking down the dock and I was passing him I told him good afternoon. Again, it is so hard to show him grace when he treated me so poorly but I know it is what I need to do. While I want to say I’ve forgiven him for what he did to me I question whether or not I have forgiven him with my whole heart. The answer is “probably not” or my blood wouldn’t boil at the sight of him or at the sound of his voice…but I am trying.
While I realize the way in which we are choosing to rear our child is different that does not make it wrong. We are not doing anything illegal. When this whole situation went down TJ and I took it to the court of public opinion in the form of a group on Facebook we belong to for parents of children who live on sailboats. Immediately we were met with support from all over the world. Parents just like us who are choosing to live onboard with children, some small like Vivienne and some that are grown. We also learned this has happened to other families, including one in Florida where CPS did show up at their boat. Our choices do not make us irresponsible, they make us unique. Sometimes we forget that people who didn’t or are not bringing children up onboard don’t understand our beliefs and that is why I know I need to show this man grace. He doesn’t understand. He doesn’t know me and he certainly doesn’t understand me….and that is okay. For now I can only pray that my heart will soften toward him and that by showing him grace and being kind he will see God’s light in me. Just as I am not a bad person I am giving this man the benefit of the doubt that he isn’t either.
My philosophy is that it takes a village to rear a child and this marina is my current village. While 99% of the marina is supportive and helps me out this man is not. I believe his heart was absolutely in the right place but his approach and the videotaping of our daughter was extremely wrong. He can have an opinion about how I am parenting and if he was concerned I wish he would’ve spoken to me in a clam and rational manner, giving me the same courtesy. Since he didn’t, however, I am left arranging meetings through a third-party and praying constantly for God to give me a spirit of peace and an attitude of calm.
Part of the “village” includes our good friends who are also bringing up a boat baby. This is Vivienne’s best bud in the marina. Tonight they were playing on his boat when we had “family dinner” for our families.
Showing grace is hard but it is what we are called to do.
On a positive note, when I get frustrated, angry, and upset I clean. I do dishes. I organize. So, needless to say, our boat is beautiful inside!
~~All things are possible for those who believe. Mark 9:23~~