Friday, June 22, 2012

Pray: Toddler in Christ

I am not a morning person. Mornings do not come easy for me and never have. Before I had a child, I would shower, dress, fix my hair and apply makeup in about 30 minutes after snoozing for an hour, turning off the alarm clock and waking up to my back up alarm that was in reality, the only alarm that mattered. Although I am known as a gregarious person who will talk your ear completely off, I prefer not to speak to anyone before 8am. As you can imagine, a child rocked my world. I managed to set up a very nice routine; I would shower, then wake Lily up and let her watch a little Mickey Mouse and munch on a little breakfast while I finished getting ready. It was perfect. Then she began forming opinions, and not just any opinions. She began forming very strong opinions that left no doubt that she was mine.

At first it was easy stuff. She didn't want to take her medicine, so I used chocolate milk to persuade (or bribe, if you want to use that kind of language) her to swallow it. She wanted oatmeal instead of french toast sticks or a muffin instead of cereal, so I would give her what she wanted as long as it was nutritious. These requests were reasonable and they did not require much thought or negotiation on my part. I had this morning thing down to a science.

The beginning of the end came when she started having opinions about she would wear. How cute is it when your daughter gets into her dress up case and puts together adorably obnoxious ensembles of mismatched beads, hats and plastic shoes with a tutu thrown in for good measure? You tell her she looks beautiful and encourage her to continue using her imagination and creativity. I remember the first clothing fight well. Lily and I were going to the pet store to look at animals, then on to get a haircut. She came out of her room in beads, hair accessories and plastic shoes that caused her to shuffle around the house. I was good with all but the shoes, not because I wanted to stifle her creativity but because I did not look forward to carrying around a 30 pound toddler when the plastic shoes started to hurt her feet. I sent her to change and she protested a bit, but then came back with shoes that matched her outfit and she was wearing just enough dress up stuff to make it look like I had dressed her and was incapable of matching clothing.

That first clothing argument was a breeze. It was late in the afternoon, I had consumed plenty of caffeine and I had been awake for hours. The real challenge came that Monday when she brought me the outfit she was dying to wear. It was before 8 am, so I was not really in the mood to argue, but she had brought me a shirt that she had found in the dirty laundry. The shirt was so filthy that I am honestly surprised a roach colony had not taken over the hamper and feasted on the foods that were stuck on. Lily's morning personality is much like mine and we had what I will always remember as our first knock down drag out. Maybe I'll add that to the scrapbook. :)

I decided to outsmart my strong-willed 2 1/2 year old fashionista by hiding the filthy clothing, but she found them (probably tracked the atrocious scent) and did whatever she had to do to get them. That's when I decided to give her choices. I would hold up two mommy approved outfits and say, "Do you want to wear this or this?" It only took 2 days for Lily to beat me to the punch and confidently march into my room holding up two filthy, completely unacceptable outfits and say, "Okay, mama, THIS or THIS?" SHE was giving ME choices.

I laugh at the absurdity of my two year-old thinking she is capable of making better decisions about her life than Doug and I are. We provide her clothing and shelter and food. We protect her from danger. We meet her needs. Absurd right?

But seriously, how often do we, as God's children, think our way is wiser? I would like to think of myself as a mature Christian, more than a "babe" in Christ, but I often find myself exhibiting toddler-like spiritual behavior.

I know I am not alone, because the Bible is filled with examples of people like me, people who think they are wise apart from God's will. God instructed Jonah to go to Nineveh, but he refused and attempted to hide from the creator of the universe. When we do something that we know is contrary to God's will, aren't we in essence saying that our wisdom is greater than the the wisdom of our Creator?

He gives us food and clothing and shelter. He protects us and meets our needs. And we think we are capable than God of making wiser decisions about our lives. Absurd, right? Sometimes I am a lot like that strong-willed 2 year-old, wrestling with God. A toddler in Christ.

I find myself relating so much to the apostle Paul and I have to remind myself of the words God breathed through him: "Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men." (1 Corinthians 1:25 NASB)

Monday, June 18, 2012

Eat, Pray: heart-shaped sandwiches and love

Anytime my daughter carries a packed lunch, you can be sure of two things. It will contain a sandwich made with whole grain bread and said sandwich will be shaped like a heart...or a flower...or a fish. I can't stand the thought of sending her off with a square or circular sandwich or even a square slice of cheese. Sometimes I build an entire theme, like a fish shaped sandwich swimming in a blueberry sea. I've even done 2am searches on Pinterest for the coolest bento boxes for kids; while my Southern upbringing and Future Homemakers of America days fully prepared me for pound cakes and dumplings, those Mickey Mouse bentos look like they would require at least a year of culinary training. Since I have trouble finding time to paint my toenails, the year of culinary training is definitely out.

I know it is just lunch, but I come from a long line of people who express love through food. My own working mother would get up in the morning and pack me a lunch of turkey and mustard on saltine crackers. I didn't eat bread, and after finding a big hunk of a buttery cheese substance in my spaghetti I had sworn off the tray lunch in the cafeteria. I took my lunches for granted then; you tend to take a lot of things for granted when you are raises by Super Mom. Now I look back and can feel the love my own mother had for me and I think of it every time I am wasting bread edges and cutting out that sandwich with a cookie cutter.

It sounds sweet, right? Does my child really care? Probably not. So why do I care so much? Since I became a working mom, I have become obsessed with doing all I can to make every day special and to ensure that, while someone else is actually sitting next to her during lunch, there is some sign of "Mama" at the lunch table. It has become my coping mechanism. The daycare deposit pales in comparison to the start up costs I brought on myself. She needed a mat? I wanted to make sure she had a coordinating pillow, blanket and nap mat cover with her name embroidered somewhere on it. She had to have her name on her water bottle. Sure, a Sharpie makes sense, but instead I was drawn to these personalized bands that wrap around the bottle. I stressed about every last detail before her first day and I don't really think she cares. I do.

I don't have time for therapy, but after hours spent on the road for my job I have finally determined the reason for my obsession with heart-shaped sandwiches and personalized nap mat covers. It is the same reason I come home tired from work but drags self to the park or to blow bubbles in the back yard, the reason I want every second I am with Lily to be quality. It's the same reason I forget the quiet moments are important, too. I absolutely hate missing that time during the day and I grasping at ways to make the most of the time I do have. It's how I cope.

In the end, does it make me a better mom? No. Could I put away the heart cookie cutter tomorrow without Lily even taking notice? Probably. Will I do that? No way. I need it, and I hope one day she looks at that sandwich and realizes that I made it just for her, just the way she likes it, with sun butter, jelly and a mother's love. Like the turkey and mustard crackers.