22Oct

What Fictional Pigs Know About Grace

My two-year-old’s face has collapsed on itself and is beginning to leak. “I don’t wanna nap!” she wails for the fortieth time. “I don’t wanna nap! I don’t wanna nap! I dooooon’t waaaaannnnaaa naaaaaaaap!” I notice she hasn’t moved so much as a millimeter toward the sink where I am waiting to brush her teeth.

I sigh and adopt my most motherly tone. “I know you don’t want to nap, but that doesn’t change the fact that you need your teeth brushed. Now please come here.”

She shuffles two steps before howling anew. “I wanna stay up! I wanna stay up! I don’t wanna nap! I’ll be good! I waaaaannnna staaaay uuuup!”

My patience is beginning to look the worse for wear. Through my head marches a ticker-tape parade of all the tasks I need to finish before a meeting tonight, though their footsteps are drowned out by Sophie’s wails, sounding ever more like an untended car alarm. What I want to do is yell at her. Matching her pitch might not be the most mature option, but it would feel awfully satisfying. I should know; I’ve yelled plenty of times before.

What I feel like I should do is force her into compliance. I was taught that children should never get away with disobedience, and I don’t want to set a precedent for bad behavior that will insure her a future as a card-carrying degenerate. I’m worried that I’ve somehow encouraged her current meltdown by being too lax a parent.

I do neither of these things though. I take a deep breath, and the confetti-strewn chaos in my head quiets. A gentle presence shows the shoulds to the door, and I’m able to see my little girl with perspective again. I remember cuddling her in the hospital bed after she was born and free-falling in love. I remember how she bounded out of her classroom at school an hour ago and ran giggling with happiness straight into my arms. I remember her affection, her sparkle, her imagination… and how her world crashes down around her when she’s tired (a trait she inherited from her mother). I remember that she’s only two.

I know exactly what to do. I scoop up my daughter, plant a few kisses, and brush her teeth as her protests subside. Then we snuggle up on my bed to read a pre-nap story. Her choice? “Olivia”—a picture book about an impulsive little pig whose mother has always seemed like a pushover to me. When Olivia replicates a Pollock painting on the living room wall, Mother Pig merely puts her in time-out before drawing her a bath and giving her a delicious supper. I’ve wondered from time to time why the mother didn’t make her scrub the wall or feed her raw brussels sprouts or, at the very least, yell her vocal cords ragged making Olivia feel properly miserable about her mistake.

This time, though, I understand.

When we finish the story, Sophie’s tears have dried. I kiss the ticklish spot below her ear until she bubbles over with laughter, and I tuck her under her covers where she curls around her beloved stuffed dog and closes her eyes. I borrow a line from Olivia’s mother: “You know, you really wear me out. But I love you anyway.” And as I tiptoe out of her room preparing to panic over my unfinished tasks, the leftover grace tiptoes after me.

Napping off a fever

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9 comments

  1. So beautiful. 🙂 I had a similar situation with my goddaughter last week. After the hollers and tears and tantrum, the cuddles and I love you’s made it all better. 🙂

  2. I wish I could always have that presence, and that patience. It is such a blessing when it all happens as it “should.” Those times are few and far between around here these days. I am so grateful that you shared yours with me today.

  3. Oh Bethany…this is truly so exquisite!

  4. (I messed up the html above)

    “A gentle presence shows the shoulds to the door, and I’m able to see my little girl with perspective again. I remember cuddling her in the hospital bed after she was born and free-falling in love. I remember how she bounded out of her classroom at school an hour ago and ran giggling with happiness straight into my arms. I remember her affection, her sparkle, her imagination… and how her world crashes down around her when she’s tired (a trait she inherited from her mother). I remember that she’s only two.”

    I love how He does the same for us…remembers our frames. Our dust. And He loves.

  5. I feel so often that this is how God deals with my pointless resistance to His solutions to meeting my real needs. Thank you for this insightful piece. I posted a link to it on my FB page this morning. Bless you today!

  6. There is so much to be learned from mothering a toddler, isn’t there?
    And their books! No wonder Jesus used stories to convey truths. You captured wonderfully how unconditional love responds to the one it loves. Thanks for sharing.

  7. I am de-lurking to say:

    Just lovely : )

  8. Krista – Amazing how that works, isn’t it? It’s so special that the final message for your goddaughter gets to be one of love.

    Megsie – I wish I could always have it too. Most of the time in situations like this, I either take the yelling approach or go on mommy strike… neither of which is particularly gracious or effective. I needed to write this down as much for me as for anyone!

    Hillary – Thank you, dear. My personal experiences with God tend to happen like this rather than in religious settings, and it is so beautiful to inadvertently live out what Jesus said: “You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.”

    Georgia Ann – Thank you so much! Isn’t it great to realize that even something as frustrating and mundane as a crying toddler matters to God?

    Cindy – Thanks, and yes. 🙂 I didn’t realize how much truth could be gotten from a “pointless” picture book, but every time we read Olivia over the weekend (approximately 4,271,014,953,277 times total), I saw it in this new light.

    Jane – I’m so glad you did. Thank you!

  9. aw, that little sweetie 🙂

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