Yesterday morning, we finished up our coloring books about the parable of the prodigal son. As the last crayon strokes were being applied, I asked Beanie and Bugaboo what they thought made the father in the story so happy. Both of them replied the father had thought his younger son was dead, but when he showed up alive, he was so happy he threw a huge party to celebrate. Their wee brows furrowed as I explained to them the father was certainly relieved to see his younger son safely home, but his real joy was in the young man’s loving repentance, and realization that his pursuit of all earthly delights had led him to ruin. The father, I went on to explain, was wild with joy that his son had returned with a wish to work hard and live uprightly.
Since they continued staring at me in puzzlement, I asked them to think about times they’ve been sent to their rooms with instructions to sit quietly on their beds until they can explain why they were sent thither and show some remorse for whatever caused the sending, then asked them what I usually do when they emerge. Both quickly replied that I greet them with hugs and kisses, just as the young man’s father did. “That’s absolutely right,” I told my daughters, “and, while I’m always happy to see your adorable little faces, I’m even happier that you’ve decided you want to do good things instead of unkind ones.”
It was a pretty rocky morning; no one had slept well the night before, and Baby Guy was ready for his nap before 10:30. Mr. Man made it two more hours after that, then fell asleep with his face planted firmly his peanut butter sandwich. Since the boys were snoozing, the girls and I decided it was a Strawberry Shortcake kind of day; after handing off some baby gear to a friend for transport to a family in need of same, I curled up on the couch with Beanie and Bugaboo for a little rest. The boys were still sleeping when the pair of shows ended, and I needed a little more horizontal time myself, so I conceded the point and closed my eyes while the girls enjoyed an episode of Pound Puppies. As it happened, the episode was about learning to love creatures we initially think are obnoxious, so it turned out to be a nice little heart’s lesson for them and a badly-needed extra nap for me.
While I could cheerfully have sacked out on the couch for the rest of the afternoon with my snuggly little daughters, it’s unwise to let them vegetate in front of the television for extended periods, so I hauled myself aloft and asked if either of them would like to do a craft. I believe they may have actually teleported into their chairs at the kitchen table, which I took as an affirmative answer, and quickly assembled a few oddments I had handy. We decided to make angels, since I had a few yards of white tulle, some fluff that looked cloudlike, and oodles of construction paper.
The house is now adorned with their creations.
By the time we had decked the doors with celestial beings, Bugaboo and Beanie were tiring of quiet time, so I gave them leave to put on shoes and head for the back yard. I had to call a couple of admonitions out the window to Bugaboo about the tone of voice she was using with her sister, and reminders to both that neither of them has exclusive rights to anything in the back yard. The racket woke the boys, who decided to play together in the living room with a big bag of blocks while I assembled dinner.
Of course, I was slicing a loaf of crusty bread with a very sharp knife when I heard the blood-curdling shriek from Bugaboo. Hurling the knife into the sink, I spun around to the back window of the kitchen, whereupon I spied Bugaboo perched precariously on Beanie’s preferred swing. The precariousness of her perch was caused by the hands, belonging to said Beanie, which were twined in her hair in an effort to pull her off the swing at the center of the apparent controversy.
There are moments when I really, truly, do not care what my neighbors think. That happened to be one of them. I’m pretty sure they heard me at least two streets over.
Two wailing, crying little girls bolted into the house and up the stairs, Bugaboo bemoaning the (understandable!) pain from her head, Beanie complaining, “She took my swing!” I shushed Beanie very firmly and informed her of her options — either sit silently at the table and eat her dinner, or go to her room. While she was tearfully deciding, I checked Bugaboo and determined that there was no real damage done, although I am positive her scalp was smarting (having had my hair used as a rope ladder by all four of my children, I can attest that having one’s hair pulled really hurts), gave her hugs, kisses, and a cup of water, then settled her in at the table for dinner. Beanie did tell Bugaboo she was sorry, and apologized to me, too.
Dinner was a bit of a struggle as well; the only child who actually enjoyed our Friday soup (split pea with ham) was Baby Guy. By the time Bugaboo finished hers, I had already given Mr. Man and Baby Guy their baths; by the time Beanie finished hers, Bugaboo and Mr. Man had picked up all the toys in the living room and the girls’ room.
When Daddy came home, the girls were in the bathtub. They wash each other’s hair and check each other’s faces for dirt spots. Unfortunately, they also have a tendency to invent bathtub games that result in a lot of water being deposited on the floor of the upstairs bathroom (repainting the downstairs and installing new shelves is a very high priority, so the kids can have their own bathroom and we don’t have to worry about the upstairs fixtures suddenly landing in the downstairs facilities). My husband, after a quick evaluation of my facial expression, sent me off to take a break and informed our daughters it was time to dry off and get ready for bed. I took the opportunity to read some stories to Mr. Man and Baby Guy; when the girls and Daddy joined us in the living room, we prayed our bedtime prayers and sang lullabies.
After we tucked the boys into their beds, I let the dogs out. As I came back up the stairs, I heard Beanie campaigning for some dessert, and firmly said, “No way.” That brought a wail from our younger daughter. ” BUT I’M SORRY!”
My husband called her over to where he was sitting on the couch and settled her on his lap.
“Why are you sorry?”
“I’m sorry because Mommy’s ticked off at me!”
“Do you know why Mommy is ticked off at you?”
“I did some bad things.”
“What bad things did you do?”
“You always do that. What did you do that ticked Mommy off?”
“I tried to pull Bugaboo off the swing. I pulled her by the hair. It didn’t work.”
At that point, Bugaboo chimed in, “Yeah, she tried to pull me off the swing by my hair. I could have hit my head on the ground and died.” Thankfully, I was in the girls’ room making sure there were no cups of milk hiding under beds, and thus could chuckle quietly.
“That’s pretty bad. Did you apologize and give her a hug and a kiss?”
“I’m sorrrrry.” Hug, kiss.
Daddy then proceeded to have the most gentle discussion possible of how important they could be to each other, and reminded them that each of them had been given, by God, exactly one sister on this earth. I teared up when I heard him explain that if they let the petty things fester, they could end up like someone very dear to us and her sister, who haven’t exchanged a civil word in twenty-two years, or spoken at all in the last ten.
After that, Daddy and I snuggled the two of them between us on the couch while we read a few extra stories. When the stories were finished, he picked up Bugaboo, I picked up Beanie, and we carried them down to their room just to get the extra hugs in. Once inside their door, we hugged the two of them between the two of us, which the girls refer to as a “family hug sandwich,” and were rewarded by Beanie cheerfully crowing, “I’m a baby pickle!”
Today’s prayer: Lord, only You can form a conscience in an instant. It will take me a lifetime to help shape the consciences of Your blessings so that they choose to regret unkind actions, instead of just being upset by the consequences of their actions. Please grant me patience and the abundant grace I will need to set a good example for them at all times. Thank You for their willingness to forgive, and their nascent understanding that You rejoice whenever one of Your children turns from self-serving thoughts and deeds in a spirit of loving repentance. You forgive us freely, without holding our transgressions over our heads or carrying grudges, and we would follow You. Please teach us to speak, think, and act with the mercy we would have shown to us.