Last night, I was trying to teach my three-year old daughter, (who has inherited something of a stubborn streak from some unknown, alien source!), about the importance of cleaning up after herself.
She was not in much of a mood to clean up the living room floor. She also was insisting on watching T.V. I thought this would be a good opportunity to kill the proverbial two birds with one stone.
Not only could I teach her to clean up after herself; I could also teach her to value her imagination and creativity by playing with her toys rather than watching T.V. First, she was to clean up the majority of the toys in the floor. Next, she was to pick a few she wanted to play with instead of watching T.V.
When I gave the above command, she let it be known she did not want to participate in this two birds with one stone lesson. In short, she threw a fit. I attempted to use this as a “teaching moment” and tell her why doing such was important.
Of course, a three-year is not one to follow reason very closely. She was having none of it. At this point, I decided it was time for a drastic approach. I decided I would use the old shock and awe technique to get through to her and help her see my side of things.
So, I told her if she wasn’t willing to clean up her toys or play with her toys, I would just have to throw those said toys in the garbage and take them out to the trash bin.
She didn’t flinch.
So, in my parental wisdom, I upped the ante. I said, Okay, I’m going to get those toys and put them in the trash and started walking toward the living room. Every step or so I would stop and look back at her, waiting for her to stop me. I was clearly in the calling your bluff phase at this point.
She still didn’t budge.
Time to raise the ante again. I had been called and I had to make a splash.
Next, I actually picked up some of the toys and reiterated my threat.
She still did not give in. Talk about a poker face!
Well, now it was time for drastic action. So, I walked to the thrash can and put them on top of the trash. I then looked at her and said, Okay, I’m going to take this out to the bin and they will be gone.
I waited for the break. I could see my wisdom coming to fruition. Any moment now . . . it won’t be much longer . . . soon, very soon it will happen . . . shouldn’t be much longer now . . . come on . . .
At this point, I think I started to sweat. My three-year old was holding her poker face far better than I.
Finally, after a long stare down, she spoke. She walked over to the living room and shouted back at me: Daddy, you missed some toys. Here daddy here are some more you need to throw away. It’s okay daddy, I don’t want them anymore.
Are you kidding me? Some of these were her favorite toys. And she’s telling me she doesn’t want them? Was this humility or Rock of Gibraltar hardheadedness?
Either way, it was apparent I had failed in my object lesson. In defeat, I walked over to the trash, removed the toys and told her we were not throwing away perfectly good toys.
After I let the whole thing die down a bit, I explained to her again why she needed to clean up and play with her toys. This time, for whatever reason, it struck a chord and she got up and started picking up her toys.
Why? I have no idea. I do know it wasn’t because she was worried about them going in the trash can!
I must say, being a parent has taught me much about God. In fact, I can say being a parent has taught me far more about God than any seminary class ever did. It has taught me about the love of God for his children. It has taught me more about his grace and mercy. Above all, especially on nights like the last, it has taught me about the patience of God.
I think God is just practical enough (or perhaps has just a sense of humor) to allow some of our (i.e. MINE) faults as his children spiritually to be demonstrated in our children physically. It has a way of highlighting it for us. One of those, Oh, now I get it moments. It’s almost as if he allows them, (or designs them), to be mirrors of ourselves. Of our stubbornness and pride and jealousy and disrespect and disobedience.
The real question then is, how well are we . . . how well am I being a mirror of his love, grace and patience to my children and to those around me? Behold the man/woman in the mirror. What sort of man/woman do you see?
Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching, for they are a graceful garland for your head and pendants for your neck. (Prov. 1.8-9)