Saturday, August 21, 2010

And I didn't even require a sedative.

I'll admit it. Fevers have always sent me into some level of panic. I've heard all of the biological facts a million times: a fever in itself is nothing to worry about...it just means the body is fighting off infection...no need to administer a fever-reducer unless your child is uncomfortable...kids can tolerate very high fevers without any danger...

I know, I know.

But there's something about putting my hand to a burning-hot forehead and watching the digital display count higher and higher that can turn me into a crazy person.

On Thursday it climbed higher than I've ever seen in my half-decade of parenting. I watched the screen as 102 passed...then 103...then 104...(oh my WORD), then finally stop at 104.5. Temptation to panic? Massive. But instead? I took a deep breath, said a quick prayer, walked said sick child directly to the bathroom and stuck her in a lukewarm bath, began Tylenol in alternation with the ibuprofen already in her system, pushed fluids like a madwoman and checked in with the doctor's office, where the nurse confirmed the course of action. And all the while I imagined the calm voice of my mother-of-seven friend Karen in my head.

I wasn't completely without overreaction, of course. At one point that evening, Mark had to stop me from paging the doctor-on-call just to check in, when there was literally no rational reason to do so. And I did sneak into Maya's room once or twice in the night, feeling her forehead until a sleepy hand batted mine away in annoyance.

But all in all? Light years better than the way I've handled moments like this in the past.

Could it be that maybe, just maybe, five-and-a-half years into this parenting gig, I'm starting to figure a few things out?

Monday, August 16, 2010

Found

My schoolgirl had an unsettling moment this weekend.

While mingling with friends after our Sunday church service, Maya's friend interrupted my conversation with the report that they'd been playing, but he suddenly couldn't find her anywhere. Not a bit concerned at first, I gave the sanctuary a quick scan, my eyes not detecting the familiar sight of the bouncing hair and pink-striped shirt I'd tracked moments before. Assisted by my sister-in-law, I began to scout around. She headed for the nursery, I checked the stage. No luck. She searched the Sunday School rooms downstairs while I walked through the main women's restroom, my heart beginning to beat more anxiously. Meeting up back in the lobby, both of us empty-handed, we were just beginning to ask the other adults in the vicinity to aid in the search, when my eyes fell on the doorknob of the small lobby bathroom. It jiggled back and forth, panic obviously on the other side. Running over, I pressed my ear to the door and heard faint crying.

"Maya?"
"Mommy! Mommy, I'm stuck!"

Relief flooding over me, I called encouragement to her through the door, giving instructions on how to open the lock. In almost no time at all, the door was open, and she collapsed into my arms, cheeks streaked with tears.

Throughout the next several minutes, I attempted to calm her down as we sat together on the floor. I stroked her hair and whispered, "It's ok, it's ok." I told her that the lock on that door was tricky, and assured her that I would work with her to figure it out. I spoke about how, had she been unable to open the lock, we could have removed the door to get her out. Still, she wept and trembled. And then, finally...

"Mommy...I was afraid that maybe you would never find me."

And there it was. The fear underneath the tears. Finally understanding, I looked into her eyes and spoke the words her heart needed to hear. "I would never leave without finding you, Maya. Never. I would just never stop looking."

Within seconds, smiles replaced tears.


In Tim Kimmel's book, Grace-Based Parenting, he cites three core needs that all children possess: a secure love, a significant purpose, and a strong hope. I witnessed all three of those needs manifested in Maya in the aftermath of her experience being trapped in the church bathroom. The very first thing she needed was the security of my embrace. The next was the assurance that so significant was she in our lives that we would never, ever give up on her.

And then, the third. As I tucked Maya in bed last night, she spoke again of the bathroom incident, however this time it was to recall something Mark told her after she relayed the story to him later at home. "I was worried I wouldn't be found, but Daddy told me that I'll always, always be found," she said, sighing contentedly.

Hope. A strong hope.

The hope of being found.

It's a hope, a need, that beats in my heart as well. The incomprehensible love of a Shepherd who guides my life and counts me as precious. The grace and forgiveness of a Father whose welcome never grows weary and whose promises stretch across eternity.

In a life wrought with circumstances that leave me rife with insecurity, heavy with insignificance, weary with hopelessness - the lock is loosed, the door is opened and I fall into the arms of a Savior who whispers the truth that I am found.

I will always, always be found.

Several times yesterday after our return home from church, Maya requested that I recount for her the tale of what happened when she was locked in the bathroom. No fear left in her voice, she eagerly asked again and again, "Mommy, tell me again about how you were looking for me everywhere. Tell me about how you found me." All smiles as she takes it in. What could have haunted her memory as a frightening experience instead has taken root in her heart as one that proved love, significance, and hope.

My challenge is to live the same story. To cultivate a joy that wells up in my heart as I sit in His presence, come before Him in prayer, ask Him to speak to me through His Word.

"Tell me again about how You found me."

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Schoolgirl

I blinked and it happened.

My eyes closed and she toddled toward me, all chubby-armed and wild-haired, babbling her first words.

They opened and she sat next to me on the couch yesterday, all lean with freshly-cut bangs, easily reading books aloud to me from cover to cover. My heart swells proud and breaks open with the bitter sweetness of it all.

I breathed in and she was two, no interest in pink frills or princesses, much preferring trains and trucks and wholly unimpressed with the world of branded merchandise. We were so pleased with ourselves for avoiding the gender-stereotyping and character-driven madness that lines the toy aisles.

I breathed out and she'll skip into Kindergarten tomorrow, clutching her beloved, personalized Ariel backpack. And a significant piece of my heart.

They told me it would happen. All of those veteran moms and wise friends and elderly strangers at the grocery store. With wistful sighs and pats on her head, their own memories playing like filmstrips behind misty eyes. At times I could glimpse the future and see it happen, could recognize it happening already. At others I was too caught in the momentary struggles to appreciate the perspective.

It goes so fast.

Each night this week as I've tucked her into bed, we've snuggled up together, she and I, for some “special, big-girl talks”. It's a tradition we plan to continue one night every week for as long as she'll allow. She pours out excitement about school and meeting new kids and meals in the cafeteria, sprinkled with worries about bullies and who will help when she needs a Band-aid. I speak reassurance and reminders, offering words about kindness to all, and seeking for close friends those who make her feel good about herself; about confidence in who she is and the work of her Creator within her. She takes it all in, and asks if grown-ups still have trouble with those things. I smile and say yes. We do. “I thought you would say that”, she replies. And I marvel at these moments when she's wiser than her years.

She bursts with delighted giggles as I remind her how very proud her Daddy and I are of her. Our big five-year-old girl who collects Care Bears, loves Jesus, and names her favorite activity as “snuggling up with my Mama”.

We pray and lie close. We blink in the dark and breathe deep.

And I savor every blink and breath, because now I know.