Who am I kidding? He's been trying to weasel his way out of schoolwork all year. This rowdy, distracted, can't-sit-still kind of kid is itching to get outside. And he's using every tactic his six-year old brain can conjure up to get me to agree.
But there are spelling words to be conquered and math problems to be solved. And I'm standing my ground this morning. He's surprised; after all, I'm usually a push-over, easily swayed into changing our routine to suit his "learning style".
Today, I am not so agreeable and not so spontaneous and a little more responsible and goshdarnit, he just needs to learn to sit still.
So, a pencil and a worksheet serve as handcuffs and we plow forward with our work. Until the twinkle flashes in his eye and I know that he has tuned out the reason why frost forms on plants and instead has figured out how he might just thaw his mom's icy demeanor.
"I am going to do something real nice for you today. Because you're such a great teacher, and a GREAT mom...
(dramatic pause, I'm listening with a frowny grin),
I'm going to make you a wonderful lunch. A wonderful, healthy.... PICNIC lunch!"
Ah... He's good.
"A picnic lunch, huh? Let me guess, outside?"
"Of course, Mom! Let's see, I'm going to make you..."
I cut him off. I appreciate the art of his style but can only tolerate so much of it without my shovel. "You know what, we can eat outside. That's fine."
This is no grand gesture of gratitude on his part. I'd tell him that I'm on to him, but I don't really see a purpose in that. Besides, I'm too tired of saying "No" and I'm out of reasons for being disagreeable.
As I expect, his heartfelt, "thank-you lunch" idea abruptly ends with my agreement to have our meal outside, and he rushes away from the refrigerator, leaving the door swinging open.
Leaving me to come up with yet another healthy, well-balanced, crowd-pleasing, inexpensive meal in the next ten minutes.
Because now that I'm standing in the kitchen, everyone is STARVING!!!!
After a pot of macaroni and cheese is dished into serving bowls, and my salad is topped with last night's leftover meat, I head outside balancing 3 meals, drinks, napkins, and a crying toddler.
The boy is already suited up in his bicycle helmet and has spread a pink blanket out on the driveway. The warm winds have turned the blanket into a disheveled pile, and I find myself staring down at a demanding finger. "Go get something to hold this blanket down... QUICK!" he orders.
After receiving a short lecture on respect and honor, the boy sprints into the house and emerges with 20 pounds of freeweights. "Look at how strong I am!!" he shouts as he bangs and clangs the dumbbells into and out of the front door, placing each one clumsily on a corner of our picnic blanket.
Not a thank-you is spoken and not a prayer offered up as our meal begins. I could do it. No, I SHOULD do it, but I'm just on that bitter auto-pilot of serving the ungrateful, I suppose. The girl and I begin to eat, while the boy rides circles around us on his bike. I ask if he'd like to join us for the picnic - it was his idea, did he remember?
I'm not surprised that he's not hungry. He's never hungry. He's just busy pedaling faster and faster. More and more toys emerge from the garage. His sister is now distracted and running after him - a fool's mission. She'll never catch up. But she's trying and she's begging him as he races by. "Chase me. Catch me! Chase me, Nuhnuh!" He pauses briefly to tickle her and she soaks in the attention. Then he's off again.
Miss M toddles behind me and spills my soda across the blanket, then bursts into sobs. I hold and rock her until she's comforted and then she squirms out of my reach and rushes to play with the weights holding down our lunch table. She drops one on her foot, and I once again hold and rock her until she's comforted and then she squirms away again.
By now, Drew has pulled out two pairs of roller skates and it's one for him and one for her, and could I PLEASE help Miss M put on her skates, Mommy?! I oblige and spend the next 20 minutes "skating" her around the driveway while the boy races back and forth around us. When the baby tires of skating, she lets me know by suddenly erupting into another outburst of uncontrollable tears. I peel off the skates and tell Drew to put his away, too.
My "Thank-You-For-Being-A-Great-Mom/Teacher" picnic lunch ends unceremoniously and the kids plunk themselves in front of the television. I follow behind, with a stack of uneaten bowls of noodles and spilled cups of soda. The blanket stays out on the driveway. With 20 lbs of freeweights, it's not in danger of blowing away, right?
I scoop the baby away from the T.V. and begin our naptime routine. She attempts another emotional breakdown, but it's not really even in her. She turns over and closes her eyes as I tuck the blanket high over her shoulders and kiss her red, tear-stained cheek.
I ignore the sinkful of dishes and give the boy a five-minute warning that school will resume shortly. I wander to the laundry room and, as I'm placing damp clothes in the dryer, he finds me to declare that he's now hungry! I hear myself begin some sort of lecture on lunchtime being lunchtime and that I'm not going to make another meal and that he's old enough to find something for himself and that it MUST BE HEALTHY!
The next thing I know, we're back in the classroom and he's eating cookies straight out of the box and I am not even saying a word about it. Because I'm in a funk over my ungrateful kid's attempt to manipulate what he wants out of me under the guise of doing something for me.
And then God quietly nudges my heart with gently-spoken yet heartbreaking truth. My young son once again has shown me what I do to my Father all the time. I chase after my desires. I'm relentless about what I want. I'm fussy and irritable and uncomfortable until I get it. And sometimes, I even figure out ways where MY selfish wants might just do God some good, too!
"Lord, if You just answer this prayer this way for me, I will be so thankful. I will just glorify You in it! You will get all the praise!"
And I fool myself (and myself alone) to think that my self-centered, self-seeking desires will somehow bring honor and glory to God. Because all too often, once I get the answer I'm looking for, I'm just like my boy... leaving that refrigerator door standing wide open... to run off in pursuit of what makes me happy.
As I search my heart, I realize that even my "good" desires can be laced in selfishness. I want to be a good mom, a patient teacher, a loving wife, a devoted disciple. Those are all good things, I know. But sometimes, I want to be a good mom so that others are impressed with my kids' behavior. Sometimes, I want to be a patient teacher so that my kid doesn't drive me insane by the end of the day and I don't feel guilty for losing my cool again with him. Sometimes, I want to be a loving wife so that my husband will, in turn, be an adoring husband.
Sometimes, I just want my life to be easy and comfortable. Sometimes, I want the picnic-blanket thank-you lunch to actual be for me.
And then the Still Small Voice is speaking again. Still gentle, still full of truth. Showing me that I need to be refreshed, and my refreshment can come from a new focus. So I spend my time seeking the Only One who can refocus me on the Only One who really matters. I sit at the feet of Jesus and lay down my desires one by one. It's a messy heap, and I know there's more to add daily.
I am begging Him to teach me to just LOVE Him. To love God so much that there's no room left in my heart for it, and it just ends up spilling out onto my husband and kids. That I realize just how patient He is with me, and I cannot be anything but patient with the people He's given me to love. That His goodness toward me is so immeasurable evident that I am compelled to be good-natured toward the children He's entrusted to my care.
And I am begging that the next time I'm offered a picnic lunch, I embrace the moment with a grateful heart for a child capable of (if not eager to be) fixing it, and the provisions of food that make eating it even possible.
Next time, my heart's desire will be that I find something divine in the driveway-dining experience!