Gabriel turns Two: Happy Birthday Sweet Boy

Monday, October 30, 2006

Spiritual Lessons of a Four-Year-Old

Four-year-olds don't do well when tired (the same could be said of adults.) When Nika is due for sleep, she seems desperately unable to behave, and it confounds me how I've traveled back in time to those two-year-old tantrum days. "I don't want to!" "Uh uh! Mmph." A leg kicks, a foot stomps, an arm flails, while Nika's beautiful face contorts into an angry face that's pretty comical. But when usual measure to invoke cooperation fail, the comedy is over and I become sad annoyed and stressed. A consequence is inevitable; not only is this kind of behavior not sustainable for me, I cannot abandon her to her impulses; she must learn to practice self-control that she doesn't yet posess. And she needs to sleep.

Tonight here's the shakedown:

Me: Nika, that's one...two...three...okay, you're showing me that you're tired, so you'll need to go straight to bed after supper."

Nika: (Wailing) Naaaooo, I don't like being in bed. I don't want to, uh, mmmph (wail)

Me: Nika, if you need to cry some more, you'll need to go to your room. When you're able to calm down you can come out and sit with me while Daddy makes dinner."

Nika: But I caaaan't stop crying. Errr.

Me: I know it's hard, when you're ready c'mon out

Nika: (More sniffling, alternating with sub-wails)

Eventually Nika wanders out of her room and rubs up against me, still sniffling. "I want to stop but I can't, but I want to be out here."

I pull my daughter on my lap; I can see she's really trying. I smooth her hair and snuggle her sniffling little body. Periodically a sub-wail erupts, and I rub her back until she breathes deeply again, her small, lean body rising and falling in my arms. Now I'm not annoyed. Compassion takes over, because I see her trying, really doing her best, and I remember times I've tried to stop my own tears. And it is hard. We read a favorite story, called I Love You So... while Daddy cooks up some chicken tenders and cucumbers.

"Mom, I don't like going to bed right after supper."
"I know baby."

A few mild protests and a pullup later, Nika is tucked in bed. She's not thrilled, but the wild flailing is gone, and my sweet girl is snuggled under her covers. She requests her "baby song" -- a song I created for her while she was growing inside me.

Little one, precious one, your mama loves you
Little one, precious oe, your daddy(s) loves you
But more than all of this, there's a God in heaven who loves you so much...

And when I walk out of her room to the evening before me, I God's using this parenting adventure to teach me something about God's own heart for you, me and every other Godkid. I'm glimpsing something of the way maybe God feels during our shananigans, our best (if imperfect) recovery attempts and our moments of peaceful gratitude.

There's no formula for raising a child. Maybe there's no formula for God's parenting either.

I imagine God doing her best, trying to simultaneously hold and shake and discipline us. God wondering whether to punish us or draw near and plop us on Her lap with reassuring kisses to our little precious heads, full of hairs that only She can count. Does God ever wonder what to do with us? Does God sigh with exhaustion and love and relief when we finally surrender and soothe in Her arms?


Sally said...

Do you know I believe she does- the number of times I've needed a hug and to stop and experienced Gods gentle patience with me. She is truly more than we can ever imagine!

Makeesha said...

That's precious. I have a 4 year old as well and I can so very much relate. I think it's wonderful how you handled that and I know God was pleased :)

Donny said...

That was a touching blog entry. You might also enjoy reading this one as well.