Tag Archive | do as i say not as i do

Little miss, little miss, little miss can’t be wrong

Here’s the song reference.

Bugaboo, bless her heart, is acutely conscious of the fact that she is the eldest of four siblings.  We do our level best to ensure that she is accorded privileges that correspond with the responsibilities that attend her place in the birth order, and try just as hard to ensure that the privileges only come when she demonstrates appropriate responsibility.

Of late, Bugaboo has developed a tremendously irritating habit of trying to order her younger siblings around, sometimes contradicting what Manie or I just finished telling said siblings to do.  It’s rude to her siblings and disrespectful to her parents, and she nearly gave poor Deedaw a stroke Sunday night when she told her little brothers to go outside after, with Bugaboo standing there, I had told Mr. Man and Baby Guy that the mosquitoes were too thick for them to play outside any more that evening.

Bugaboo and I had a quiet little conversation this afternoon about what my job is and what her job is.  I explained to her that my job is to make sure that everyone gets along with each other, that the house doesn’t get condemned by the health department, that everyone learns those things that are needful to know, and that there are never shortages of hugs, kisses, prayers, or stories in our family.  I also explained to her that her job is to learn, to treat everyone the way she wants to be treated, and to set a good example in such things as proper mealtime behavior, decorum in church, and doing chores without an overabundance of complaints.  After answering a round of sour-faced objections from Bugaboo, I reminded her of the prayer she has heard me utter aloud a thousand times, usually when dealing with some incident of familial foolishness that has caused me to plead for God’s peace and mercy, to wit:  “Lord, help me remember that I do not want Your job.”  I explained to her that, in the fullness of time, she will likely have charge of a household, a budget, a career either at home or outside it, perhaps children of her own, and that when that day came, she would wish for the responsibilities of a six-year-old girl again.

I hate it when I sound like my mother.  It seems to happen with increasing frequency.

The rest of our afternoon was cheerful and peaceful; we sang a little bit, read a really good book about the Anasazi, and folded a couple of loads of laundry before the tribe decided Smudgie really needed to chase a tennis ball around the yard for a while.  While I worked on dinner for the tribe, Deedaw and I talked on the phone; our conversation turned to Bugaboo, her bossiness, the manner in which she barks her orders, and how frustrating it is for us to constantly have to correct her.  In her gentle but direct way, Deedaw pointed me to one of the roots of the problem, “Please don’t be upset with me, but she sounds a lot like you.”

I may have mentioned before our family has been graced with elders who possess extraordinary wisdom.

Deedaw is one of them.

Life has had a higher-than-usual insanity quotient in our family over the past several months, and, if I spent a few minutes at the keyboard, I could generate thousands of words’ worth of excuses for why I’ve not guarded my tongue more carefully with the tiny people, why I’ve too often spoken to them in a tone more suited to a drill sergeant badgering a group of recalcitrant recruits, why I’ve neglected to take the time to model the Golden Rule with them.  All the verbiage in the world, though, would still be an attempt to weasel around the fact that I’ve been less than gentle with the tribe, and thus has set a poor example that my most priceless mirror has reflected back at me.

Deedaw and I talked a little longer, and I thanked her for loving me enough to point out my error, and for giving me the example of how to do it gently.  She thanked me for loving her enough to see the love behind the correction, and for listening the first time the correction was given.  As we ended our conversation, Bugaboo wandered into the kitchen, lured by the aromas of baked chicken, mashed potatoes, gravy, and pineapple, to see if anything tasty might be in the offing yet.

“Something smells pretty yummy in here, Mommy.  When’s dinner?” inquired my eldest, as she blocked my path from the sink to the stove.

I started to bark at her to get out of the way so I could drain the potatoes.  Before I opened my mouth, I heard Deedaw’s wise counsel in my head.

“Dinner is just about ready; I just have to drain the potatoes and get the chicken out of the oven.  It would be a big help if you could let Beanie, Mr. Man, and Baby Guy know we’re almost ready to eat and everyone should get washed up.  Could you do that, and use your nice voice, please?”

Bugaboo plowed into my legs and hugged me hard.  “Sure, Mommy!”

I returned her embrace, kissed her head, and said, “Thanks, Bugaboo, that’s a big help.  By the time you all get here, dinner will be on the table.”  She skipped off, happy in the difference between a departure and a curt dismissal.

Later that evening, the tiny people assembled in the boys’ room, as we do nightly, for a round of stories, songs, and prayers.  While Baby Guy still requires major assistance with pajamas (and, of course, cannot change his own diaper effectively), Mr. Man is generally capable of dressing and undressing himself.  The big fellow had managed to jig his way into his pull-up, but was experiencing technical difficulties with his pajama top, the neckline of which flatly refused to let go of the bottom hem.  Mr. Man started pulling at the unruly shirt in various places, his voice becoming increasingly shrill as the fabric refused to obey his commands.  I listened to him whining orders at his pajamas, and heard my own voice again.  Instead of shrilling back at my whining son, I soothed, “Hold on, buddy, I’ll help you as soon as I have Baby Guy down from the changing table. You’re okay, and you did a good job getting that over your head.”

Bugaboo approached him, looked up at me, and inquired, “Mommy, is it okay for me to help him?”

“Absolutely, Bugaboo, please be careful so you don’t hurt each other.”

Very gently, Bugaboo put a hand on her little brother’s shoulder.  “Hey, Mr. Man, I can help you get that unstuck.  It’s okay, I used to get my jammies stuck sometimes, too.  See, here’s the bottom of your shirt, I’ll help you get the back of it rolled down, see, now your belly will be all warm.  All better?” As she talked, she had fixed the uncooperative top.  Mr. Man smiled at her and answered, “Uh-huh.  That’s better.  Thanks, Bugaboo.”

I greatly preferred that reflection to the ones I’ve been seeing.

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Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for the four little blessings with whom You have graced our marriage, and for the wisdom of older family members who, instead of helping me make excuses for my shortcomings, gently point them out and continue to love me in spite of them.  Thank You for the reminder that however we train up our children is the way they will go when they are grown, and that You charge us with being constant teachers when You gift us with children.  Please send me the grace to teach them that gentle words turn away wrath, and that the wise listen to good counsel when it is offered.  Help me show them that allowing someone to persist in error instead of offering gentle and loving correction is no love at all, but an indifference that offers insult to Your commandment that we love one another.

Just call her angel of the morning

Here’s the song reference.

I had advised the tribe on Thursday night that I intended to make an early morning, light-speed grocery run at about 6 a.m. on Friday, and that should anyway be awakened by the sound of the front door closing, the correct course of action would be to nestle more comfortably into their pillows and blankets and resume sleep operations, and that under no circumstances was anyone to go into Mommy and Daddy’s room, or wake Daddy.

At 5:49 a.m. yesterday morning, as I was working on the blog post, I heard Bugaboo’s characteristic “I’m going to get away with something” tiptoeing sprint down the short hallway and into the bathroom, then the soft sound of our bedroom door opening and closing.  Bugaboo is a pillow thief, and mine is her target of choice.  If it happens to be unoccupied, and she thinks she can manage to not get in trouble for it, she will immediately climb into our bed and wrap herself around it.

On very rare occasions, she even goes back to sleep.

You may have already surmised that yesterday morning was not one of those rare occasions.  I did not make the pre-dawn grocery run for fear of waking the rest of the tribe.

When I shuffled into the bathroom around 7:00 to shower, my saggy-eyed husband was tying his shoes and Bugaboo, dressed in her Thor costume, was merrily chattering, and bouncing on her Tinkerbell pillow.  I rather gruffly informed her that I was highly displeased that she had chosen to disregard the previous night’s instructions, and asked her if she remembered what I had told her the night before.  With some trepidation, she replied that she did remember she wasn’t supposed to wake Daddy, but that when she came in to give him a hug after she used the potty, he was already awake, so she stayed around.

“I tried to go back to sleep, Mommy, but I really wasn’t sleepy, and I have my Thor girl costume on, and . . .”

“So you did remember what the right thing to do was, and you deliberately chose not to do it?”

“Well, kind of.”

I breathed in, ready to deliver quite the lecture about how Daddy works very hard for us and it’s important for us to let him get his sleep, about how deliberate disobedience is a poor way to say “I love you.”  Manie quietly said, “I was awake.  She’s okay.”

Great, I thought, now he’s ENCOURAGING her to be disobedient.  I scowled and prepared to include my husband in the lecture.

Ordinarily, I try to listen for “the still, small voice” that, when I listen to it, tends to guide me in the right direction. The Lord, in His omniscience, understands that the coffee doesn’t fully kick in until after I’ve showered, so the intracranial voice of wisdom boomed, “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?”

I paused and exhaled.  Then I thought about the time and energy we have spent teaching our children to love people and not things.  I thought about the nights I have consoled a tired Manie when he feels wretched that his work schedule keeps him from spending as much time with the tiny people as he’d like.  I thought about all the times I’ve remonstrated with Bugaboo for pouting because she had to spend time with family instead of going on a shopping trip.  I realized that Manie had not sent her back to her room.  And I realized that I was angry with a six-year-old girl because she wanted to spend an extra hour with her Daddy, and with a father for wanting to spend time with his daughter.

And I saw the look of trepidation on Bugaboo’s face, wondering if Mommy was going to hold this against her and be angry all day.

I hugged her, and kissed her, and said, “Love you, big girl.”

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Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for understanding that I am thick-headed, and loving me anyway.  Many times in the past year, You have given me the opportunity to learn that we are not given to know the length of our lives, and we therefore should spend every possible moment loving one another as You have loved us.  Many times, I have explained to Your blessings that we must value the needs of others above our own selfish desires.  Lord, I am sorry for being angry with Your blessings for heeding the lesson.  Please change my heart; please fill me with Your grace so that Your blessings may learn from me sometimes, instead of the other way around.  Thank You for blessing me with so many and such wonderful teachers, and help us all, together, seek to serve You instead of ourselves in all things.

Breaking the Law

Here’s the song reference.

Mondays tend to be a little trying at our house; the tribe really enjoys having Daddy home for the weekend, and visiting with Nonno and Deedaw on Sundays.  The extra attention and fun outings are grand; there are things that, given the ages of our children, are tough for me to do without another adult around, so we tend to pack those things into Saturday and Sunday.  When the first day of Daddy’s work week dawns, all four tiny people are a little glum, and more prone than usual to snarkiness — let’s make that screaminess and whininess.  I’ve tried outings, playdates, extra-super-special art projects, music, prayers, movies, chores that separate combatants, art projects that separate combatants, science projects, cooking, playing outside, bubbles, using the bathtub as a pool, letting them make phone calls, extended storytimes, naps, rational explanations, and about a thousand other strategies, and have finally come to the conclusion that, for the time being, Mondays will generally be replete with opportunities for me to offer up small sufferings to Christ.

Yesterday was, of course, a Monday.  The first sound I heard from each of the first three wakeful blessings was a scream.  Baby Guy gets a pass for his, because he was hungry; Bugaboo and Beanie were just screaming at each other.  There is apparently some deadly insult among little girls that involves referring to one’s sister as either a yak or a tree, and once that insult is offered, a full day of combat is required to restore the honor of the offended party.  I spent a great deal of time explaining the concept of forgiveness to our daughters yesterday, sometimes in less-than-dulcet tones.  Mr. Man helpfully followed me around, his hands waving, hollering at his sisters, “Not nice!  No throw!  No push button!”

Of course, he followed his admonitions by hurling blocks across the kitchen and resetting the cable box so the on-screen menus appeared in French.  Mondays.  It was at that point I decided that a run to the store for milk and eggs was in order, partly so that I could separate them all by strapping them into their car seats.  As I put it to a friend, it was the sort of day that causes me to frequently thank the Lord for children who have large vocabularies and no speech delays, and to recall that since the Lord will send what I ask him for in faith, causes me to pray for wisdom instead of patience.

I’ll spare you the play-by-play.  By dinnertime, I was about at my wits’ end; once four tiny people were safely ensconced at the table with their meals, I grabbed my Kindle and headed out to the back porch to read and listen to a little Scott Joplin on my Kindle (click the link, listen to something beautiful), and tune out any noise that did not indicate a life-threatening emergency for a few minutes.  I decided to check Facebook as well; sometimes laughing at the silly pictures reminds me to be joyful.  Unfortunately, what I found was a terse and unresponsive response to an invitation to Beanie’s upcoming birthday party.  Sighing and composing responses of varying degrees of appropriateness in my head, I went back upstairs to investigate the source of the banging noise (potentially life-threatening, at our house).

Having ascertained that no one was in immediate danger, and having counseled Mr. Man that banging on the refrigerator with a spoon purloined from Bugaboo is not an acceptable method of music-making, I started making the rounds to see who wanted seconds of what dish.  Bugaboo scrutinized me for a moment, then inquired, “Nobody’s being very nice today, are they?”  I concurred with her assessment, and added that even people who weren’t at our house were being somewhat rude.   She considered that for a moment, then asked, “But we have to forgive them anyway, right?”

Yep.  “We do, honey.  Just like I forgive you, but still expect you to not keep doing it.  If you keep saying nasty things, or saying things in a nasty way, I’ll still forgive you, because God forgives me, but don’t be surprised if other people don’t want to be around you if you keep doing it.  We’re supposed to love each other, right?”


“Do we love each other by being snotty when someone didn’t do something exactly the way we wanted them to?”

Pause.  “No.”

“Right.  Do you want seconds of anything?”

“Is there more macaroni and cheese, please?”

“You betcha.”

Today’s prayer:  Lord, Your law tells us that we must forgive each other’s trespasses as many times as others trespass against us, because You forgive us infinitely more times than we forgive others.  Thank You for Your little blessings, at least one of whom already understands that.  Please help me teach them what love is, and what love is not, and that love is more readily shown in kind treatment of others than by ostentatious trappings and public declarations of one’s great love for and faith in You — and help me show it in my conduct on the days when they are trying to break the world record for the decibel level of screaming and whining.