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.

Are You Having Fun With Your Kids This Summer?

This summer has been very unique for me. Fourteen of my last sixteen summers were spent, in some capacity, traveling and working summer camps. Those summers were memorable and life-changing, but they were also hard work and busy!

This summer I had one goal and one goal only for all my “free time” now that I’m off the road: to have lots of fun with my family!

I told my husband just this week that if he ever thinks to himself, “I wonder if my wife and daughter would like to go to the pool today?” . . . The answer is YES! Always, yes!

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At the beach in June. Fun!

I know as parents, we can grow so weary. Trust me, I know. Most days, I’m up at 5:45, at work by 7:30, picking Abigail up at 4:45, then we’re home to help cook dinner (I say help because let’s face it, I do about 25% of the actual cooking in our house), clean, do laundry, give a bath and somewhere in there I’ve got to try to work in exercise, time with my husband, time with friends, time in the Word . . . Whew! We’re exhausted. When is the fun supposed to happen again?

I’ve taken on a new philosophy this summer. In non-summer mode, I think our house generally stays pretty clean. On a scale of 1 to 10, (10 being Martha Stewart and 1 being Obama just called in FEMA) I think we usually land somewhere around a 6 or 7. Hey dust bunnies, I see you. But the things are picked up and in their places, the dishes are done, most laundry is put away, the kitchen counter is wiped down and the bed even gets made most days (Thanks husband!). Enter summer. I think this month our standard level of clean has dropped to about a 4. Why? Because I hate being in a messy house and my kid loves to be outside, so what do you think we choose to do? Since I work, my hours in the day with Abigail are already short. Too short. I could spend those hours cleaning. Or I could spend them running, swinging, chasing, swimming and eating ice cream with my daughter. I’ll clean my house again, for real, in September.

Listen, I know summer can be stressful. We’ve all heard the phrase, “The days are long, but the years are short.” Well, guess what? In the summer, the days are longer. Longer! There are already days in the dead of winter where bedtime can’t come fast enough. Now the days are longer! What if the days being long wasn’t a bad thing? What if instead of seeing this as more time to “fill”, we saw this as more time to have fun? To enjoy our kids. To play and do crazy things – things we wouldn’t normally do when the sun goes down at 4:30 (Seriously, what’s up with that Middle Tennessee?).

I felt like I had a choice to make. I could choose to stick with my normal routine of coming home, cooking, cleaning, bathing, and putting to bed by 8:15 sharp. Or I can choose to sweep the dust bunnies under the rug and take full advantage of this magical thing called summer with all it’s warmth and extra long days and sunshine.

We chose fun. We bought fresh peaches at the farmer’s market. We swam. And swam and swam. We stayed up way past our bedtime. To watch fireworks and eat ice cream.

This is a chocolate frosty and this photo was taken at 8:30 pm! Fun!

This is a chocolate frosty and this photo was taken at 8:30 pm! Fun!

On several occasions, I have rushed home from work and thrown a random assortment of food items in a bag to head to the park for a picnic. Our child has gone down a slide no less than three hundred times. We got very dirty and very sweaty. We brought a lot of that dirt into the house. It did not all get swept away promptly. We survived.

We’re doing more than surviving though. We are having fun! We are enjoying each other’s company and laughing and making lots of memories. (Oh hey, and bonus: all that running and swimming and playing has burned quite a few extra calories!) (One other side note: I certainly don’t think it is a parent’s responsibility to entertain their children all day, every day. I’m not talking about entertaining. I’m just talking about getting out of your routine and getting the most out of summer with your kids. Or friends, or other significant people in your life, if you’re not a parent.)

I think this is what a child's knee should look like in the summer. Fun!

I think this is what a child’s knee should look like in the summer. Fun!

What about you? Are you enjoying your summer? Are you occasionally forsaking normal household responsibilities to play outside in the sun or have a picnic or take a walk? Don’t just send your kids outside to play. You, parent; you need to have fun too! With your kids! It doesn’t have to be expensive to be fun. The possibilities are endless. The days are long. But they won’t stay that way. Cooler weather is just around the corner. Schedules and bedtimes and regular bath times will all fall into place again. (Okay, maybe not overnight, but they will.)

The days are long, but summer is short. Make time to enjoy the precious people God has placed in your life. Make memories. Have fun.

What My One-Year-Old Taught Me About Fear

My sweet child is young and is still learning so many things about this great, big world. Just this week she learned that if food is hot to the touch, it will also burn her mouth, so she should put it back down and wait before eating. This was a lesson learned by trial and error (and many looks that said, “Why did you let me eat that?”). Currently, she is learning just how much she can irritate the dog (i.e. pull his ears, legs, tail, poke his eyes, yell at him, etc…) before he loses patience. She’s also learning the delicate timing of how fast she can get away from him when he’s had enough.

But there are plenty of things she doesn’t know about. Like sharks. She doesn’t know about sharks. She has pictures of fish in many of her books. You can ask her to point at the fish and she will. But she doesn’t know that some of those “fish” grow to be very large and have very sharp teeth and can eat you.

We took our sweet girl to the beach this month. She had only been in water a handful of times so we were prepared for some natural fear of the water. We were also prepared for a downright paralyzing fear of the sand, due to her being OCD and never wanting any dirt on her hands. She will literally spend 30 minutes picking invisible specks of dirt off her hands and feet. She carries wipes with her at all times, just in case there’s dirt somewhere and it might get on her. We can’t explain this phenomenon but we do take full advantage of it.

So we were a little nervous about the sand and the fact that it would be completely covering her at all times. As kids often do, she surprised us and immediately loved digging in the sand. The ocean, on the other hand, took a little more time. We tried over and over to put her little feet in the water and she would pull her legs up as fast as she could and wrap them tightly around us.

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But I was determined. I wanted my baby girl to have fun at the beach and I wanted to show her that she didn’t have to be afraid. The problem is, the ocean is downright scary. She doesn’t know it, but there are plenty of things to be legitimately afraid of in the ocean. Like sharks. Ok, so obviously a shark is not going to attack in three inches of water, but the ocean is seriously a breeding ground for danger. Stingrays. Jellyfish. Crabs. Oil spills. Undertow and riptide. (And when you’re 2 1/2 feet tall, you can add plain old waves to the list of really scary things.) This stuff is real! I know when I was a kid, I would swim in with reckless abandon as kids do. But I can’t remember the last time I went further than knee deep in the water. Because, sharks.

So I had a major, pivotal, decision-making moment while holding my terrified one-year old in ankle deep ocean water. I’m afraid of what I can’t see in the water. And rightfully so. There are plenty of dangers lurking. I can choose to stand here, ankle deep, and let our experience with the ocean be shallow. And my daughter (eventually) will learn to let fear control her. That’s not what I want. I want her to be wise, discerning, informed, careful even…but not fearful.

So I nudged her along. I carried her along the shoreline and every three steps would dip her and sweep her legs through the water and tell her to kick the scary waves back into the ocean! She kicked and kicked and laughed and laughed. Mom’s arms and back got more and more sore. I would put her down for a second to stand on her own and she would reach back up for me. Then, finally, I put her down and without warning, she ran full speed into oncoming waves. They knocked her down, rolled over her head, she laughed, got up and did it again. And again. And again. And again.

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So Mom had another choice to make. I can let my one-year-old have more fun at the beach than me…or…

I broke a very long streak of basically never putting anything more than a kneecap in the ocean. And I have my daughter to thank for that. I wouldn’t say we overcame our fear. I would say we found joy in spite of it.

I know there are healthy and appropriate fears. It’s ok to be afraid of snakes and spiders, particularly poisonous ones. It’s not ok to never go outside because you’re afraid of snakes and spiders. Scripture tells us “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” and “Happy is the man who fears the Lord.” (Psalm 111:10a and 112:1a HCSB, respectively) To fear the Lord certainly doesn’t mean to avoid Him or to stay away from Him because He is big and terrifying. There are unknowns and plenty of danger lurking, but our fear should make us run straight into Him. Like the ocean, He is vast and mysterious, but He still offers us a chance to know and enjoy Him. We fear Him because if we are really following Him into unknown places, He won’t always be safe and comfortable. But there will be joy. So much joy.

 

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.