From Pull-Ups to Grown-Ups

christmas-background-2500-lo-and-behold-2I wrote this post five years ago. As a writer, I give every story a test. If it doesn’t give me chills or bring a tear, I go back to the keyboard. This one still makes me cry. It’s one of my all-time favs. I hope you enjoy. 

I’ll never forget the first time I heard God speak to me. I always imagined it would be a dramatic encounter like Moses’ burning bush experience or the angel’s appearance to the shepherds in the field. My “word from the Lord” wasn’t anything like that, though. The “angel” giving the word wasn’t even talking to me. In fact we didn’t even have the privilege of eye contact. And that was a good thing since she was on the toilet.

At least it was on a church toilet.

She was talking to her friend in the stall next to hers.

“Emily went poppy on the potty,” the first lady began.

“That’s great.”

“No not really, because, that was three months ago! She refuses to try again and I’m about to lose my mind!”

The other lady tried to encourage her friend. “Emily won’t be in Pull-Ups forever.”

I stood at the sink innocently washing my hands. My eavesdropping was unavoidable, but I instantly knew the next part of the conversation was inspired by the Lord and targeted towards me. Like a puff of smoke bellowing out of a smoker’s mouth, the words blew right in my face.

“Never forget—children are a gift from the Lord.”

Second hand smoke can make us choke. So can second hand words.

I had been praying about whether or not I should put my career on hold to stay home with my children. After hearing that advice, I knew I was supposed to quit my job. I turned in my two-week notice the next day. Even though finances would be tight, I hoped the investment would be worth the sacrifice.

I delighted in my new role as a stay-at-home mom.

Okay. I lied.

At first I was bored stupid. The transition from “rolling-in-the-dough” to rolling Play-Doh was incredibly difficult. Even with the Fun Factory, there were only so many sculptures I could squash, mash and mold before I went insane. What was I supposed to do all day?

I joined a play group with other moms at my church that also had young children. I had fun until several of them started talking about home schooling. That’s when I panicked. Was this disease contagious? I couldn’t imagine anything more brutally inhuman than schooling at home. Not for the children, but for me! I secretly counted the days until I could once again have some time to myself. School was my recess time. Plus, if trained elementary professionals had difficulty with education, I was certainly doomed to failure.

Here’s proof. When my daughter was learning to read, we were going through the drive-through lane on a visit to see Colonel Sanders when Brittany looked at the sign in utter shock. “Mommy!” she exclaimed. “They spelled Tucky Fried Chicken with a ‘K’!”

It wasn’t until my son was in fifth grade that he realized a vending machine was not a bending machine and “ballet” parking was spelled with a “v”. I let him down gently. “Garrett, there are no ballerinas in tutus parking the cars.”

Clearly, schooling was a job for professionals.

When my daughter was in second grade, her class memorized the second chapter of Luke at Christmastime. I drifted off to sleep countless times listening to her rehearse the verse, over and over and over.

“And there were in the same country shepherds buying the field, keeping a clock over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the gory of the Lord shone…”

Zzzz.

She was able to recite the entire chapter, but apparently she fell short on comprehension. This first became evident while playing a game of Bible Trivia later that month at a friend’s Christmas party. The question read, “What was the name of the angel of the Lord that told Mary she was going to have a baby?” Anxious to answer, Brittany frantically waived her arms in the air and shouted like Arnold Horshack in Welcome Back Kotter, “Ooo, ooo, ooo! I know!”

I smiled proudly. My daughter, the young Bible scholar. My shoulders straightened and I sat a little taller in my seat. I anticipated the ooo’s and aww’s that the other parents would emit when they heard the correct reply from my seven-year-old Jesus genius.

Until she blurted out, “LO!”

“No, sorry,” the parent monitoring the game chuckled, “that’s not the correct answer, Brittany.”

Brittany thrust her hand in the air again. “I mean…ugh…BEHOLD!” she insisted.

Of course. Lo and Behold. The King James language barrier strikes again.

Then there was the time when Garrett had a part in our church’s Easter play. During rehearsals he watched the scene of the woman caught in the act of adultery. Thankfully he never asked what adultery was so I didn’t have to translate that Bible story. Naturally, when the play ended, I thought I was off the hook, but I was wrong. Kids pick the most random times to inquire about topics only suitable for discussion after they turn thirty or forty. A couple of weeks after the play, we were on vacation. On a crowded elevator, after pressing the button to our floor, Garrett looked up and picked this time to ask, “Mom, what is an act of a dog tree?”

Someone snorted.

My husband turned beat red.

I tried to explain, but it was no use.

I never home schooled my children, but I did teach them. Maybe not in academics, but about the importance of faith and family. A few years ago, my daughters graduated and moved out just as my youngest entered high school. I thought about going back to work. Our budget could sure use a boost, but I decided to wait. As much as fifteen-year-old boys try to act like miniature adults, I think they still like having their moms at home. They may spend most of their time on the computer or with their friends. Sometimes they don’t even look like they’re listening when we talk, but somehow teenagers are needier than toddlers.

So I stayed home.

Now, four years later as Garrett is preparing to graduate from high school, I caught myself wondering again: Did my sacrifice make a difference? Was it worth the cost of staying home? Did my investment pay off?

Just then, my 6-foot mini-me saunters down the hall, holds out his arms and smiles, “Mommy, I don’t think I’ve had a hug today.” Flashbacks of Pull-Ups and Play-Doh flood my mind along with his favorite childhood treasures:

Thomas and friends.

Legos and Lightsabers.

Superman pajamas and Batman costumes.

As precious as these things were, somewhere along the line, they were stashed away and traded in for skateboards and scooters, Play Stations and X-Boxes.

Cell phones.

I-Pods, cars and guitars.

Even so, I have an 18-year-old college-bound full-fledged grownup offspring that wants a hug and still calls me Mommy.

Yes, it was worth it. He may have traded in his toys, but I’m still his favorite treasure. The choice to stay home may have delayed my career, but the love and admiration of my children…how can I put a price tag on that?

It’s been over twenty years ago, but I’ll never forget the angel’s words I heard coming out of that church bathroom stall.

Children are a gift from the Lord.

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