Children Are People: Little, Whole People.

I’ve had the privilege (yeah, let’s call it that) of flying with my daughter six times in the first two years of her life. That’s six trips, twelve flights, more than twenty-four hours on an airplane. She was three months old the first time. I held her the whole flight in a window seat. When we stood up at the end, the guy on the aisle looked over and said, “Whoa! You’ve had a baby this whole time?!” Besides his lack of observational skills (and the odd insinuation that perhaps the baby had not actually been there the whole time), we thought this was a great compliment.

Fast-forward to toddler days. I don’t think anyone would make the same mistake now. It’s stressful to fly with a toddler on your lap, there’s no way around that. They’re loud, unpredictable, stubborn, active, and sometimes they move their limbs like those vintage mini-puppet toys where you push the bottom and their arms and legs collapse at awkward angles:

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So flying with these little people is always an adventure. But one I’m more than willing to take on so Abigail can see grandparents and cousins and great-grandparents and aunts and uncles. Because my little child is a person and I want her to experience as much life as possible, even when she is not yet two years old.

We recently flew home from five glorious days of vacation in Texas. There was lots of sun, swimming, sweets, and very little sleep. Michael went home a day early so it was just the two of us. We got on the plane and spotted a window seat on the third row. Yes! The worst part of the flight is always those last ten minutes it takes to unload after the plane has landed. Your kid knows the flight is over and you should be getting off, but you’re not. It’s airplane purgatory. So the third row was a win!

We squeezed by our new friend on the row (I’ll call her “Aisle Seat”. She was probably in her 60’s, so maybe a grandma? Cross our fingers . . .) and we settled into our tiny, cramped home for the next two hours.

One by one everyone boards and keeps walking to find another open seat, even as the flight attendant announces that this is a full flight. I get it. I really do. I know how relaxing a flight can be when you don’t have a bouncing, laughing, poking, kicking toddler on your lap. I don’t blame you for walking past us. Not even a little bit. But then the door closed and the middle seat on our row was still empty (win again!) and “Aisle Seat” turned and said this: “Well, looks like you lucked out. I guess nobody wants to spend the next two hours next to a screaming baby.”

Like I said, I get it. An airplane is obviously not an ideal place for a toddler, but it’s necessary to let people travel back and forth to see loved ones. But just a few thoughts:

1. At this point, my child has not made a sound and has been quietly sitting in my lap looking out the window at the luggage carts and other planes and clouds. No screaming.

2. An airplane is a public place. Any time you venture into public, you run the risk of being inconvenienced. I have a responsibility in public to help my child act as much like a civilized human being as possible. I recently abandoned a half-full shopping cart in Target and carried my screaming child outside to the car under my arm like a sack of potatoes. But there’s no outside on a plane. There is just this tiny seat.

3. I will do my best to make this experience as pleasant as possible, I promise, but my child isn’t an electronic device that I can turn off or put into airplane mode. She is a person. She has a personality and feelings and right now she’s sad because she just said goodbye to her grandparents in the parking lot. But we’ll do our best.

I wasn’t rattled, like I said, I get it. So in an attempt to disarm “Aisle Seat” a little and ease the tension, I responded, “Well, she’s awfully cute, so I guess they’re all missing out.” “Aisle Seat” didn’t laugh.

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Of the 130 minutes that we were in the air, Abigail cried for approximately 10 of them. Man, we tried so hard. We got out all the toys and all the books. We ate all the Cheerios, played all the games, and sang all the songs (quietly). There were a few minutes where I thought Abigail’s charms might win “Aisle Seat” over. But just when I thought we were gonna make it with a decent amount of dignity, “Aisle Seat” got up and walked to the front. And complained to the flight attendant.

I know this because the flight attendant (bless her) then came over and started banging cups in Abigail’s face to “entertain” her. Confused, Abigail took the cups, stacked them together, and put them down. The flight attendant cheerfully said, “Maybe that will help,” and walked away. Not to be deterred, “Aisle Seat” grabbed a cup and the bag of Cheerio’s (that I was holding), got a handful of Cheerio’s out of the bag, filled the cup, and started shaking it at Abigail. (At this point, I was just trying not to laugh.) “You’ve got to keep them distracted,” she said. Them? There’s only one of her. And she’s doing pretty good for a toddler on a plane, but she is having a rough day. Maybe you are too, since you’re now on your second Jack Daniels on a two-hour flight.

As the plane touched down, “Aisle Seat” said, “I hope you have someone coming to pick you up because I don’t think you can handle all that.” Oh, I think we’ll be ok. I will manage to gather all our belongings and we will go on to live our lives after this flight.

Just to be clear, I’m not bitter or mad at “Aisle Seat” and I’m recounting this experience mostly because it’s funny to me. I can’t say enough that I get it and I literally feel a burning wave of nausea every time we step on a plane because I don’t want to be a burden on anyone, ever. I feel eyes piercing into us as we walk down the aisle, but then I remember, hey, this is my little person that I get to travel with today and I like her, even on bad days. You might get to sit by her and get a few Cheerio’s in your lap or you might get to sit by the guy that busts out his Salmon Caesar Salad five minutes into the flight.

I told Abigail before we got on that flight that I was so glad she was with me. I always get sad leaving Texas and I was happy to have her company as we traveled home. And I meant it. I’ll put up with the awkward sorry-we-bumped-into-your-tray-table . . . again . . . because she’s a person and I enjoy being with her. An airplane with a toddler isn’t my ideal place to spend a Sunday afternoon either, but it’s still two hours that I get to spend with someone I love.

For all the things that children can be: loud, rude, unpredictable, annoying, selfish . . . oh wait, adults can be those things too . . . They are people. Feelings, emotions, good days, bad days, all of it. Little, whole people.

Leaving Old Bandages Behind

You may have never seen anything as equally sad and cute as a one year old in a sling. (And if you say those Sarah McLachlan commercials, I’ll have to ask you to stop reading.) How do small children not break bones more often? Ours falls approximately 37 times a day. Off chairs, over toys, running down the hall. Recently, she got a running start and went face first into a door frame.

On the afternoon that she fell and landed in just the right (or wrong, I guess) spot, Michael and I (with all our vast medical expertise) diagnosed her with what I am now referring to as “jello arm”. As in, we would lift her arm over her head and she would drop it like it was made of jello pudding. Now, I am generally a very level-headed person. So naturally my first instinct was that her bone had somehow turned into mush and we needed to call 911 and maybe they could grow it back like Harry Potter’s?! Michael, thankfully, was much more calm, called the doctor’s office to let them know we were on our way, and even thought to drain the hamburger meat that was cooking on the stove and put it away before we left. How completely rational of him.

The doctor’s verdict was it was probably a fracture. On to the ER. X-rays couldn’t confirm (which apparently is not uncommon at that age), but they suspected a fracture as well. She got a splint and a sling and they sent us home, WAY PAST an acceptable bed time for a 16 month old. The next day we had another appointment with our regular pediatrician who twisted her arm in all the same painful ways it had been twisted the night before and again she suspected a fracture. Another appointment was scheduled with an orthopedic doctor to determine if she needed a full blown cast. We were instructed to watch her closely over the weekend as she most certainly had something serious going on in her arm and if she was in pain, take her to the ER immediately. This is serious. Got it. (Side note: Abigail is really trying to make sure we meet our annual deductible as soon as possible this year. Bless her.)

We spent the weekend doing very laid back activities. Books. Puzzles. Sunday she seemed to be feeling much better and was moving her arm a lot more. She was also really enjoying her sling and finding lots of things to do with it like store toys and wipe yogurt off her mouth.

On Monday, we head to the orthopedic. Ladies, you know how your car will make that funny noise and it does it every time you drive the car, but as soon as your husband (or dad or older brother) get in to check it out, the car stops making the mysterious noise? That’s exactly what this doctor’s appointment was like. The wrap and the splint came off and if her chubby little legs would let her, Abigail would have been doing hand stands. The doctor was polite enough to at least “take a look at her”, which was difficult to do while she was doing chin ups on the chair beside me. And his diagnosis, which we knew the second that splint came off, was “there is absolutely nothing wrong with your child.” Obviously, but thanks for your expert advice.

The nurse asked if we wanted to keep the splint. Now, it’s not that I’m not sentimental. But one, gross. That thing’s been on her arm for 4 days and I got a whiff of it when it came off. And two, she doesn’t need it anymore. I don’t know if her arm really was broken and it miraculously healed over the weekend or if it was just a bad sprain. But either way, she doesn’t need that bandage anymore. And we literally left it laying in pieces in the middle of the floor and walked away. And I haven’t been able to shake that image since.

What Christ has done for us is miraculous. We absolutely were broken and He healed us and transformed us so completely that it’s as if we were never broken at all. Sometimes we try to hold on to our past and keep putting bandages on it. We can’t just leave it in the middle of the floor and walk away. We hang on to old labels: addict, adulterer, liar, immoral. But God has given us new labels: free, delivered, new, loved. Of Zion, the Lord said, “You will no longer be called Deserted, and your land will not be called Desolate; instead, you will be called My Delight is in Her…for the Lord delights in you…” (Isaiah 62:4, HCSB). A new name. A new label.

The blood of Christ doesn’t just put a bandage on your past, His blood has covered it. “He forgives all your sin; He heals all your diseases. He redeems your life from the Pit…” (Psalm 103:3-4b, HCSB)

I want to leave old bandages behind. I don’t want to carry them around. They stink and I don’t need them anymore. I don’t need to keep a souvenir of the past. “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12, HCSB). So I’ll leave those old bandages scattered on the floor and walk away. Not broken anymore.

Precious Moments (and we’re not talking little pastel colored figurines)

Well, I actually am going to talk about those little figurines for a minute. I’ll go ahead and admit that I own exactly one. It’s a nativity scene with a child kneeling beside the manger looking at baby Jesus. Maybe he’s giving a gift to baby Jesus? Anyway, it was a gift from Michael’s great-grandmother Alice who owns approximately 273 of the little figurines (give or take). I do faithfully take it out every year at Christmas and this year it looked pretty cute on the shelf in Abigail’s room, I must say.

If you’re not familiar with these little statues of smiling cherubs, here’s the deal. There are thousands of them to choose from. They are intended to commemorate special times in your life or the life of your child or perhaps represent some special interest or hobby. So you could find a little statue of a small boy fishing with his dad or a girl going off to school for the first time. You can choose from children building a snowman, skipping girls holding baskets or a boy throwing a football. And then you’ve got your major life events like graduation, marriage, first baby, anniversaries and so on. Since Abigail is coming up on her first birthday in just a few weeks, this particular one made me laugh out loud today:

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Why is this funny? Because this moment will never happen. There is no way that Abigail will ever sit that close to her cake without diving in with both hands, unless mom and dad are literally holding her arms behind her back. And then she might just stick her face right in it. Yes, it’s sweet and cute. Just not realistic. This one is a little better although if you’ve seen Abigail eat this kid is still about ten times cleaner:

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Of course there’s nothing at all wrong with these adorable little porcelain friends. They commemorate important moments in life that we want to remember! But when I think about what they represent, I can’t help but think that those types of “precious moments” can be few and far between. Birthdays are significant, but they happen once a year. Learning to ride a bike is a milestone but there’s a lot of life on either side of that day. Bringing home a baby from the hospital is one of the single most life-changing events there is – but it’s still just one day of thousands and it comes and goes surprisingly fast. You’ll have about 6,570 more of those days just by the time they turn 18.

I’ll admit, I’m often tempted to gauge life by what major milestone Abigail is accomplishing and then try to rush her on to the next one. You’re rolling over, great, now let’s start crawling. You’ve started eating finger foods and like peas and corn ok, let’s try steak! (This is real life.) Ok, you’ve been playing around with this walking thing for three weeks now, let’s take some serious steps! Hurry up and turn one year old so we can please stop buying expensive formula!

But then I have times like Sunday afternoon where it’s just us at the house and she’s eating black beans and corn (and, ok, maybe french fries too) and she’s loving every minute of it and waving her arms in the air after every bite. And we laugh and she throws corn at Amos the dog and then smiles at me because she knows she did something she’s not supposed to do. And that is a truly precious moment. And that is what makes up the bulk of our days. Eating, giving baths, reading books, picking up toys, playing with the dog, cleaning up after dinner, changing diapers…This is what we do day in and day out. It’s not glamorous. It probably doesn’t deserve a commemorative porcelain figurine. But it’s how we spend our days. And it’s precious.

So when I’m tempted to rush through to the next “big” thing, I’m choosing to slow down and enjoy each moment. Like changing the imminent diaper containing certified nuclear waste after the black bean and corn dinner. Maybe that’s a moment that Michael needs to enjoy…