Accidental parenting

Sometimes good parenting happens accidentally.

Like at a trip to Target.

We had gone to buy toys for a nine-year-old boy with leukemia who had just started another round of chemo to prepare him for another bone marrow transplant. We don’t know this little boy. He’s the grandson of a member of our church. Since having kids, Chris wants to take care of every sick or hurting child. (For example, the kids who live behind us lost their father. Ever since, we’ve bought every Girl Scout cookie, candle, and raffle ticket they’ve sold. We even won an iPad in one of the raffles. Which my husband promptly gave back to the girl who delivered it and told her she could keep it. Sometimes I love-hate this generous man of mine.)

Anyway, when we heard about this little boy, Chris asked if we could send a care package. So I go to Target.

I should mention that because we would have to mail the package to Seattle, this would not be my normal M.O. Normally, I would get on Amazon and spend just enough to get the free shipping, all while watching Revolution. I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me to do that in this case, but it didn’t.

So there we are in Target, Keegan, Anne, and I, shopping for Legos because what else do you buy a nine-year-old boy who’s mostly confined to bed? And Keegan wants to know why we’re buying presents, and specifically, why we’re buying presents not for him.

“We’re buying them for a little boy who’s sick. Maybe getting presents will make him happy, and Jesus likes when we buy other people presents to make them happy.”

“Oh. Like Santa Claus.”

“Yes. We’re buying presents for someone because we love Jesus.”

Keegan holds the boxes ceremoniously (until he sees something of utter importance–”Look, Mama! Look! Look! A pirate!”–and drops them and steps on one in the cart), but for the most part, he handles them carefully because these boxes are special. He’s so caught up in this idea of buying presents for someone, he doesn’t ask for any toys or books for himself.

Then we head to the post office, and as I get both kids out of their car seats again, I remember why I use Amazon instead of the post office (that and it’s cheaper to use Amazon: do you know how much it costs these days to ship a couple of Lego kits and a paperback of The Hobbit?), and I get them into the stroller and try out four boxes before figuring out which one was the right fit then stand in line to pay for everything and mail it, all the while Anne’s getting tired of all this sitting, and Keegan wants to talk about Zach (the little boy with leukemia).

“I think he will like his presents, Mama.”

“Oh, yeah?”

“He will. Are we going to take them to him?”

“The presents have to fly on a plane because he lives far, far away.”

“Where’s the plane?”

And then we have a discussion about the truck that will take them to the plane, and Keegan informs me that the presents have to go up steps to get on the plane, and where’s the truck that will take them to the plane? Now not only have we bought toys for this little boy, but there are planes and trucks involved, and this might be the coolest thing ever.

That night, we pray for Zach, and Keegan tells Chris about buying Zach presents and about the plane and the truck that will take the presents to Zach (I’m pretty sure Keegan imagines the plane delivering the presents directly to Zach), and I think, this is why I didn’t use Amazon. Because if I’d used Amazon, he wouldn’t know that sometimes you do things like buy Legos and books for someone you don’t know because he’s hurting.

I pray for grace in parenting, that yelling at Keegan when he pushed his sister instead of calmly sending him to time-out won’t damage him for the rest of his life or that feeding them hot dogs every day for lunch won’t permanently harm their little bodies (at least these hot dogs are nitrate free, right?). But here was grace unrequested–a chance to talk about generosity in a way Keegan understands (a.k.a. toys and presents) because we love Jesus and it makes Jesus happy when we make others happy.


  1. Love those unexpected moments when you realize you’ve done something good in the lives of your children! And no, the other things won’t scar them for life, not when there are moments like this that have shown your children your heart.

  2. Accidental parenting is always my favorite.

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