Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Slow to Speak

As I busily scrubbed the last of the dishes, his little hand reached toward the stack of scratch paper on the counter. He was delighted to find a pad of post-it notes nestled among the pile. I immediately envisioned them being peeled away with reckless abandon, meaningless scribble defacing the once-perfect yellow squares.

It's happened before. Like the time I came downstairs to find that the children were planning to go on strike. An oatmeal strike. The post-it notes were plastered all over the kitchen cabinets and appliances, warning me that a certain breakfast was not welcome. (I, of course, warned them that an oatmeal breakfast was better than no breakfast. They quickly agreed. I added a heaping spoonful of brown sugar to each bowl. They smiled. End strike.)

Back to the post-it notes. We had plenty of other little pieces of note paper, and I figured they were probably just as well suited to his needs. So as I continued to load the dishwasher, I requested that he use the scratch paper instead. He happily obliged.

He stayed at the counter and slowly worked through the letters. With his unique left-handed slant, my boy took his time, eager to perfect his new cursive skills. He finished and smiled his broad, big-boy-tooth smile, "It's for you!" I took the paper and melted over its message: "I love you!!!"

And I was worried about wasting post-it notes. I hugged my beamish boy, and he placed his note on the ledge above the kitchen sink.

I inwardly grimaced once again as I noticed that he happened to place it on top of three popsicle sticks. Another reminder of my shortcomings . . . . I had attempted a room-cleaning system where the kids each got three popsicle sticks. If they stayed on task, they got to keep their sticks. If I found them neglecting their work, I took a stick. Should I gain possession of all three sticks, they would have an earlier bedtime that night. It seemed like a good idea at the time. But I wasn't so sure when I saw his three sticks sitting there under his love note, as though I was somehow trying to keep . . . a record of wrong.

There are many pauses along life's journey where a mama must think about what she's done, what she's said. This was such a pause. I felt the weight of desiring perfection and order in my home. These things can certainly have their place. But are there times when this striving squeezes out opportunities to receive my child's affection? Are there times when this striving inhibits growth and creativity?

During this striving, the Lord gently reminds me: Slow to speak, dear one, slow to speak. I'm learning that this applies not only in situations where anger may threaten to rule (as we often consider in the passage from James), but also in situations where my fear of losing control may threaten to rule. This is a big one. I have much to say to my children. I have grand plans for making order out of chaos. And slowing down is rarely on my to-do list. But I choose to press on . . . slowly . . . knowing that I'd much rather have a house full of Aidan's post-it notes than just about anything else in this world.
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