When I wrote this post, almost a year and a half ago, our granddaughter was two. But I find it still rings true, although the exact details have changed. I could write a new post to reflect the perils of trying to write something substantive while parenting a three-and-a-half year old…(substitute “Go, Diego, Go” for “Kipper the Dog” and chocolate protein bars for goldfish)…but I’ve been soothing nightmare fears since 4:30 AM, and now it’s nearly 6:00 and I haven’t made my coffee yet (see steps 1 and 2, below).
So while I continue to ponder self-discipline, and the parallels between our relationships with our children and with Our Father, I think I’ll just let you read this.
FIRST PUBLISHED ON APRIL 17, 2013:
Step 1: Set your clock for a bit earlier than usual, so that you can write your first draft before the two-year-old wakes up. Then hit snooze until the German Shepherd sticks his cold nose in your face and wills you to let-him-out-for-pete’s-sake-what’s-wrong-with-you.
Step 2: Brew a large cup of coffee and decide to check your email while the coffee is brewing. 30 minutes later …when you’ve answered three emails, deleted 12 others, caught up on Facebook (including taking your turn in Words with Friends) and checked the weather… your coffee is cold, and the toddler is stirring.
Step 3: Hurriedly read a daily on-line devotional, mutter the verse to yourself, and head upstairs to get the little girl, who is now loudly demanding your presence. She has soaked through her PJs overnight and her crib sheet is wet, too, so you spend some time cleaning up and getting her dressed. Bring her back downstairs, catch sight of the computer and wonder, “What was that verse I just read?”
Step 4: Figure out something that the girl will eat, put it in front of her at the kitchen island, along with juice and a continuous playlist of “Kipper the Dog” YouTube videos on your laptop. Microwave the coffee, and return to the other PC to collect your thoughts. See that you have a response to one of your emails which needs another immediate reply.
Step 5: Stop to wipe up spilled juice (we know how to take our sippy cup lid off now…isn’t that special?). Pick up bits of string cheese, raisins and goldfish crackers off the floor (don’t judge me)… get out crayons and paper, return to coffee, which is cold again. Microwave it.
Step 6: Begin to write blog post, ignoring for the moment that you have no title and don’t know where the thread of thought is going. Attempt to also ignore that the girl is feeding goldfish to the dog and coloring on the tabletop. Complete one paragraph. Realize you’ve just woven together Mark 7:27-28 and the “Kipper The Dog” theme song. As you contemplate whether that’s something you can work with, stop because girl has fallen off the stool at the kitchen island where she prefers to eat.
Step 7: Having given kisses and hugs, and refilled the juice cup, return to desk. Sip cold coffee and decide that it’s not worth another trip to the microwave. Look for more quotes to support your main idea, and get distracted looking at the bargain book page on Amazon. Stop yourself before buying your third copy of The Complete Winnie-the-Pooh, even though it IS on sale.
Step 8: Wake up to the fact that the child is no longer in the kitchen, but is creating mayhem in the living room with multiple DVD cases, all the couch cushions, and a box of Kleenex. Stop her. Rationalize that paying attention to the toddler trumps trying to write something profound for the moment. Swill the rest of the cold coffee, put on jackets (yours and hers) and shoes (ditto) and head out to “take a walk in the sunshine” (her request), …all while you struggle to jettison “They call him Kipper…”, which seems to be auto-looped in your brain.
Step 9: Hours later, after rock and stick collecting, swinging, sliding, one scraped knee (which was kissed-&-made-better), and some more miscellaneous food items (half a banana, two bites of yogurt, a cracker with peanut butter, AND two jelly beans because you promised), it’s nap time… for her, not you. Make some grown-up lunch. Sit at computer and stare at what you wrote earlier. Re-read it several times. Eventually realize that it makes considerably less sense than if the now-sleeping child had written it. Brew more coffee. Stare at screen some more.
Step 10: Hear little girl awaken from her nap. Surrender. Hit “Move to trash”. Decide to serve goldfish crackers and string cheese for dinner.
There are times in all our lives when we beat ourselves up for all the things that we “should be doing”…but as the late Brennan Manning was fond of saying: “Don’t should on yourself.”
Here’s another quote of his, a little longer:
“We must be ready to allow ourselves to be interrupted by God… It is a strange fact that Christians and even ministers frequently consider their work so important and urgent that they will allow nothing to disturb them. They think they are doing God a service in this but actually they are disdaining God’s “crooked but straight path”. It is part of the discipline of humility that we must not spare our hand where it can perform service and that we do not assume that our schedule is our own to manage, but allow it to be arranged by God.” ― The Wisdom of Tenderness: What Happens When God’s Fierce Mercy Transforms Our Lives
Brennan died last Friday. I had the pleasure and privilege of hearing him speak once, and I’ve been nourished by several of his books. I’m pretty sure I know what he’d have to say about my attempts to do something ‘profound’…
I bet he’d say to eat the goldfish, kiss the child, and thank the Father.
That sounds like a good plan.