My sister called me last night in a mild panic. Apparently there was a miscommunication with their summer babysitter, and she’s not back in town until tomorrow, so my sister needed someone to watch her two kids today. I said it was no problem, of course, because when you have four kids already, what’s two more? Besides, once you get a mob like that, they pretty much entertain themselves all day and my job is really just crowd control.
So the oldest three are downstairs playing Minecraft, and the youngest three are upstairs playing in the baby’s room. Kaylan (my niece) is almost 6, Gwendolyn is 4, and Calvin is 9 months. His room is child proof, and I told the girls to build some towers for him to knock over while I went downstairs to put a load of laundry in. I’ve got the baby monitor on so I can hear what’s going on up there, and I figure I have a good minute and a half where I can dump the laundry in and start the washer before I need to check in on them.
Calvin starts crying at the top of the stairs.
Kaylan: Shhhh. Shhhhhhhh. Shhhh.
Gwendolyn: We didn’t do anything!
Oh yes, now I’m relieved. I get up there and Calvin’s on his back at the top of the stairs crying while Kaylan tries to shush him, and Gwendolyn is guarding the baby gate with her arms out to block me.
Me: What’s going on?
Kaylan: Nothing. (Said very quickly with an innocent face)
Gwendolyn: We didn’t do anything! (Said loudly and with great verve)
What’s the lesson here? Besides the fact that 6 and 4 year olds can’t be trusted with anyone younger than them for more than three seconds? Well, after I checked the baby over, gave them a stern look, came downstairs and laughed to myself for a minute, I got to thinking about how often I do that. I mess up, drop the ball on something I was in charge of, or just make a poor judgement call, and my first response is to cover it up, lie about it or go on the defensive. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been responsible for making a phone call or sending an email about something, and when I forget or just don’t do it, I make an excuse. “Oh yeah, I was going to do that, but I ran out of time.” Or I say something rude without thinking first and hurt someone’s feelings, and say to myself, “I didn’t do anything wrong, I was just being honest!” Really? Is anyone buying this nonsense? Maybe God looks down at me like I looked down at my girls and thinks, “Uh huh.”
Or perhaps I’m careless with my words. My kids are looking to me for encouragement or validation, and I’m picking on their messy rooms or telling them to HURRY UP FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THINGS GOOD AND HOLY! (That may or may not be a direct quote that is uttered six to a million times a day in this house).
Now I’m not suggesting kids shouldn’t take responsibility for their own belongings, or that they need to be coddled like special snowflakes every moment of the day. However, there are times when they need me to take a minute, stop, and listen to what it is they need to say instead of rushing out the door to swim lessons. Sometimes they need me to admire their art project instead of freaking out about all the small pieces of cut up paper sprinkled on the floor that was just vacuumed. Sometimes I need to look up at God and say yes, I know, I messed up. Thanks for reminding me. Please help me do better.