Here’s the song reference.
Manie had a rare day off yesterday, as his employer closed in observance of Labor Day, and an even rarer opportunity to sleep until 9 a.m., as the boys also decided to sleep in. Bugaboo and Beanie chose quiet pursuits, doing a little bit of school work, building a little Lego oasis, reading a couple of books, and I was able to keep the noise I made doing some light cleaning and packing to a minimum. When the head of our family awoke to the smell of pancakes and bacon cooking, he was ready for some fun with the tiny people.
Over our morning meal, I tantalized the tribe with the promise of a craft involving the many shoeboxes I’d unearthed while cleaning and packing. The promise of any art project occasions great jubilation among the midget mob; plates were cleaned with lightning speed, although I’m pretty sure Smudgie scored more than his fair share of pancakes amidst the tumult. As I was washing the breakfast dishes, Bugaboo and Beanie grabbed pencils and textbooks and set quickly about their work, the sooner to be able to delve into whatever crafty wonder awaited.
After breakfast, the girls finished their lessons while the boys tried to outdo each other in both the volume and odoriferousness of diapers filled; even Smudgie fled their presence at one point. While Bugaboo solved her last few equations and Beanie noodled out her last phonics exercise, I rounded up the half-dozen or so shoeboxes scattered throughout the house, piling them on the table along with rubber bands, waxed paper, and aluminum foil.
Our round-eyed children began filtering into chairs around the kitchen table, curious about the implications attached to such a hoard of treasure. Mr. Man inquired wonderingly, “What’s that, Mommy?”
“We’re going to make instruments, buddy.”
After a few false starts (silly me, I tried to read them all a saint story while there were interesting things piled on the table), Manie and I managed to get four kids seated and quiet enough to hear directions. With a flourish, I tore open the bag of rubber bands and announced we would be making guitars, while Manie quietly retrieved a pair of kitchen shears and began cutting a circular hole in a box lid. Our children are quick studies generally, and after a few rubbery stretches, Baby Guy held the first creation of the day in his little hands, along with an extra rubber band so he could add another string to his instrument if he so chose.
It was a joyful noise, indeed, although we had to referee a couple of ownership disputes over the rarer brightly-colored bands, and after a great deal of experimentation, we ended up with several box guitars, one box bass, a waxed paper-covered comb, and a couple of cardboard kazoos. Armed with implements of melodiousness, four children and their father tumbled into the living room, led by Bugaboo, who excitedly crowed, “We can make our own band!”
As lunchtime was fast approaching, I enjoyed the art of noise coming from the living room while I tried to restore a semblance of order to the kitchen and turn the ball of pizza dough I’d started, before activities of mass construction had commenced, into a pizza crust. However, the sounds were so hilarious I felt the need to grab the camera and attempt to record our silliness for posterity. When there is a two-year-old in your family, keeping some semblance of a meal schedule is essential to maintaining one’s sanity, so I reluctantly had to forego the opportunity to jam with the rubber band band. Recording the moment for posterity, however, should have been easy.
Once again, I underestimated the force of Bugaboo’s desire to have me participate in playtime. As I tried to record the hijinks of four kids and their Daddy pretending to be rock stars, Bugaboo, with great persistence, tried to thrust a box guitar at me. Because I had a bowl of dough in one hand and a camera in the other, I was unable to take what she offered, and tried to wave her off with a smile and a shake of my head, nodding in the direction of her siblings to indicate she should keep playing and having fun with the rest of the family.
She didn’t take the hint, and continued thrusting the guitar at me with increasing force. Her forehead developed the “I want” groove that is all too familiar. Her demeanor had escalated from, “please play with me, Mommy,” to “you’re going to do what I want and I’m going to make you” rather quickly. I stopped the camera before quietly explaining that I was not able to play at that moment because I had some work that needed to be done so everyone could eat, that I had simply been trying to capture a snippet of the fun she and her siblings had been creating, and that I most emphatically did not appreciate having anything pushed at me after I had clearly said, “no.”
Had Bugaboo given any evidence that she was feeling rejected, I probably would have given her a hug and a box guitar a quick strum before returning to lunchtime preparations. When, instead, she stomped her feet and insisted, “Mommy, you need to do what I tell you,” while continuing to shove the instrument at my midriff, I shook my head and frowned.
“Bugaboo, I’m going to explain something to you. It is probably the most important thing you will learn today. When people tells you no, especially if they’re telling you no about something that involves things touching their bodies, you listen, and you stop. Immediately. No questions. Unless you are pulling someone out of a rushing river or a burning building, if someone tells you not to touch them or to get something away from her body, or his body, you stop. No means no. Period. No exceptions.”
She glared at me.
I asked her, “Bugaboo, think about this for a minute. When someone grabs you, or shoves things at you, and it makes you uncomfortable, even if it just isn’t what you want to do right then, does it make you feel happy?”
The glare metamorphosed into an angry glower. “No. And I want them to stop doing it.”
“Right. Now, think again. Do you want to play with people who keep doing things like that after you’ve told them to stop?”
The realization crept over her face like cobwebs in a crypt. “No,” she whispered.
“Then what makes you think that someone would want to play with you when you do it? Remember, we treat other people the way we want to be treated. Do you want me to shove things at your tummy when you’re trying to do something else, or do you want me to listen when you say no?”
Softer still came her reply, “I want you to listen.”
“I thought so. Bugaboo, I really want to play with you guys, but right now, I can’t. I need to get a pizza in the oven. And instead of everyone having a good time doing what they were doing, now nobody is playing, partly because instead of doing the fun thing with everyone else, you kind of made it all about you and what you wanted. That’s not a very good way to say I love you.”
I went back to the kitchen and finished assembling the pizza. As I worked, I could hear Bugaboo crying, and Manie gently reinforcing the concepts that no, we don’t push things at people and yes, we do stop to consider other people’s needs and feelings, especially when we’re trying to do something with a group.
Once the pizza was assembled, I joined the rest of the band in the living room. Bugaboo was snuggled on Manie’s lap, strumming a box bass, while Beanie, Mr. Man, and Baby Guy sat scattered around the room, seeing what sounds they could charm from their respective instruments. Surreptitiously, I recorded a few seconds of video, then complimented Bugaboo on the deep, resonant sounds she was drawing from a shoebox strung with colorful rubber bands.
“Thanks, Mommy. I like this project. Do you want to play?”
“Absolutely! Thank you for offering.” I reached over and plucked the bands, laughing with her at the silly twanging sound my awkward fingers made. “And thank you for understanding that I had to get lunch ready for all of us before I could play. Better now?”
“Better now. What kind of pizza are we having?”
“Ingredients pizza, with green peppers and ham and mushrooms, but I made sure there would be a few slices of just plain cheese. Does that sound good?”
“That sounds GREAT! Hey, are there any slices with just cheese that might have some mushrooms on them?”
“Not at this moment, but I’ll bet I could arrange that.”
I leaned down and kissed her head. “Love you, Bugaboo. Bunches and bunches.”
Today’s prayer: Lord, please keep Your arm around my shoulder and Your hand over my mouth, and grant me the wisdom to understand what can wait and what cannot. There are times, Lord, when I must instruct or correct Your blessings, especially when it comes to matters of accepting another’s right to be secure in his or her person, but Lord, help me keep a sense of proportion and context, and not let a child’s desire to include me in her play become a reflection of the worldly issues of the day. Grant us all the grace of understanding that one who makes music, prays twice, and let that desire to prayerfully rejoice override and infuse all of those tasks that must be done. And please, Lord, keep me mindful that You have entrusted them to our care for a relatively short time, and they will learn every lesson we teach. Grant me the humility of heart to seek forgiveness even from my children when I am in error, for they will learn this from us, as well.