I originally wrote this in 1997. As I was preparing to launch a new website, I found it going through some old files. Every word I “prophesied” has come to be. For those of you sill-raising boys, I share it anew. )
I usually approach the holidays with anticipation of a slightly slower pace, some time with the family, and holiday traditions. Not this year. As any man knows, whose wife ever expected Christmas visitors… nothing dampers a guy’s Christmas cheer like a lengthy “honey-do” list.
I believe there is an amazing natural phenomenon associated with holiday guests. I call it “company-disorder”. A normally contented and peaceable woman undergoes a strange transformation in the days just before entertaining visitors. I am convinced it is something biochemical, (or possibly a communist plot). Suddenly she notices EVERYTHING wrong with the house that requires her husband’s immediate attention. Perhaps her vision suddenly becomes more acute.
For example, she may stare at the same overgrown bush for four months…. but when company is coming she suddenly notices that it looks HORRIBLE and must be cut NOW. Thus the “honey-do” list grows and grows.
Chief on my “honey-do” list this December was the boy’s room. It was a wreck.
Now I know that YOUR male children are the kind that spend their days seated properly upright, quietly reading books… pausing only occasionally to look your way and sweetly tell you how much they love and appreciate you. But not my boys.
My boys are the tree-climbing, toolbox pilfering, refrigerator raiding, lizard catching, constant motion variety that have never seen a room that they could not do some damage to. One day recently, after an afternoon of pilfering the afore mentioned toolbox, they discovered that Dad’s hammer could make a rather lovely hole in the sheet rock wall of their bedroom. Flush with the joy of this discovery, they proceeded to make not one… but two rather sizable holes.
I suppose I would have been rather calm about the damage, had it not been the 900th time my toolbox was raided and the hammer was the LAST tool I could actually locate. (I am sure that someday future archaeologists will excavate my back yard and become convinced that Florida was once inhabited by a strange tribe that warded off demons by burying tools around their homes!) To make matters worse, it had only been a few months since we carefully spackled and sanded all the flaws in their walls and repainted the entire room. So, I responded to the frustrating problem in my usual levelheaded, effective manner…. by putting off dealing with it as long as I could..
For weeks the holes loomed like great dark chasms. But as Christmas approached and my wife’s “company-disorder” set in… I was forced to act.
On the evening I began to work on the boys’ room, my wife happened to look inside the hole. (Once again, remember, her vision has suddenly become extremely acute.) “Jon, there is something down in there!” She seemed aghast. “Well, what is it?” I replied, not really wanting to know. “I’m not sure…. Maybe we’ve found Jimmy Hoffa.” my wife suggested.
“It’s where we put stuff, Dad.” Son Number Two cheerfully confessed. Number One Son suddenly looked extremely uncomfortable. “Stuff?! What Stuff?!” I retorted. “Get it out!”
Since my son’s arms were small, we instructed him to reach inside and get the contents out. He sheepishly reached his arm inside and removed a pair of underwear from the hole. My blood pressure shot up a notch, and my voice matched it. “Why in the world would you stick underwear in the wall?!” Before I got an answer, my boy reached again into the wall, and this time retrieved a spoon. My wife and I exchanged glances. ” Boys.. What all is in there?”
Over the next few minutes, my son reached again and again into the hole, producing item after item.
No less than five teaspoons…a rib bone… a pacifier… six slices of cheese (still in wrappers)… five dollars in change.. a hair brush..
With each new item my blood pressure rose.
My toenail clippers ( I had spent an hour searching for them)… an entire set of Lincoln logs… assorted Legos… doll house furniture…. doll clothes… a pair of shorts..
As the items piled on the floor that evening, an interesting emotional transformation began. At first we were irritated…. even downright angry. But after a few minutes of this fiasco we found it harder and harder to stay angry, and harder and harder to keep a straight face. With each new item, we would choke back the laughter… trying to convince the boys this was a very serious matter! A serious matter indeed!
I’m sure you could share a story of “kid messes”. Face it. Raising kids is a messy job. You’ll never have you house quite the way you want it. You’ll never spend money quite the way you’d prefer to. That’s why so many in our “me first” culture have decided not to have children at all. They are work.
But God declares that children are a REWARD from Him. His highest and best blessings in scripture were always the fruit of the womb. So how do we manage to keep this in perspective in the trying times?
It helps to remember that anger and frustration are simply the result of unmet expectations. Perhaps our expectations need adjusting.
For me, personally, there is also a reality check I reach for, a terrible truth I remind myself of: Everything is temporary… and I better enjoy it while I can.
You see, some day I will fix the boy’s wall… and it will stay fixed. We will wipe a child’s fingerprints from the doorway for the last time, and they will not return.
I will declare “This room better stay this way!”… and it will.
I will reach for a hammer… and it will be exactly where I left it.
Every tool will be in place. But there will be no more backyard creations and no would-be tree houses.
There will be no crayon marks on the wall… but no little artist to make them.
Nothing sticky on the living room couch… but no hopeful little voice asking me for a treat.
There will be no lipstick on the carpet… and no little sweetie playing “mommy”.
There will be no one to protest when I leave for work… and no one running in excited little circles when I return.
Someday my house will be quiet. Very quiet. Gone will be the constant chatter of little voices. Gone will be the giggles and squeals that begin with the sun. I will need an alarm clock to break the overwhelming silence.
Someday my children will leave this house to pursue God’s plan for their lives. I will be left with just the few pictures we have taken, and the memories we have made.
I have only today. Only today to enjoy my children. Only today to teach them the things of God. Only today to pass the faith along. If I am not doing these things, and if I am not having fun along the way I have allowed the enemy (and my own selfish expectations) to steal something very precious.
Do you have children at home?
God help us to just enjoy today. For these are the days of God’s blessing… and the best years of our lives.