Acting like a 5 year old

When my twins turned five I was not aware of how difficult everything would become for them. Strong, independent five year olds, right?

Wrong.

Actual conversation–

Royal-Flush-14k-Solid-Gold-Toilet-Flusher2ME: Make sure you go potty before we leave.

JUDAH: (throws his head back and says in a melodramatic sigh voice) WHYYY???????

[He goes into the bathroom. A few seconds later, he emerges.]

ME: Did you flush and wash your hands?

JUDAH: (flops on the floor and says in melodramatic sigh voice) UUUUUGH!!!

The conflicts with my boys are usually about one of three big issues: using the bathroom, eating meals, or cleaning up after themselves.

In my mind, these should be simple, expected tasks for five year old boys, but mine act like I’ve asked them to cross the Grand Canyon on a tightrope while juggling cats and eating dog poop. How could I be so cruel and have such high expectations?!

Sometimes, they try to meet my authority with an authority of their own. Here’s an example of 5 year old negotiation at its finest–

JUDAH: Can I have a piece of chocolate?

ME: After you finish your lunch.

JUDAH: (throws his head back and says in melodramatic sigh voice) WHYYY??????

ME: Because you have to finish your lunch first.

JUDAH: Okay, well, if I finish my lunch, I get a piece of chocolate AND a piece of cake.

He says this like the finishing of the lunch was up for negotiation. Like he expects me to be overjoyed that he did something basic and foundational for his health and well-being. So overjoyed, in fact, that I would now be willing to throw in extra rewards and bribes for the privilege of watching him sacrifice so much and work so hard.

Um…no, son. You must finish your lunch. That is not negotiable. It is the dessert in question that is not guaranteed.

My boys will never be lawyers.

The negotiating and overreacting is tiring to me as a mom. I want to scream at them that this stuff is NOT THAT HARD!

It’s actually for your own good. You will feel better after you do it. Just pee; get rid of the bad stuff.  Just eat; take in some good stuff. Just clean up; it’s part of being a member of this family.

Today I started to wonder if God feels the same way with all of my excuses and bargaining. Sometimes I feel myself respond to that gentle whisper in a Judah-like fashion–

Talk to that homeless woman. She’s a person just like you. Show her love.

ME: [mentally throw back my head and say in melodramatic sigh voice] WHYYYY??????

Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.

ME: Okay, well, if she’s still there after I drop the boys off at preschool, THEN I’ll talk to her.

Why do I act like loving people is negotiable? It’s basic and foundational for my life as a follower of Jesus. It’s for my own good. I feel better after I do it.

Sometimes I am more like a 5 year old than I’d like to admit.

And it’s really not that hard…Get rid of the bad stuff. Take in the good stuff. It’s part of being a member of God’s family.

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Christmas stuff

There are two beautiful things that my kids do not know are counter cultural:

1.) We visit toy stores and treat them like libraries. Look at toy, check out the buttons and sounds, comment on how cool it is, return to shelf. If you shop with us, you will hear me repeat over and over again as we browse through the aisles, “Let’s see what else we can find.” Even just turned 2 year old Sariya knows the routine. If she asks for a baby or stuffed animal she means that she wants it to ride in the cart with her for a few aisles. Then we work together to remember where the baby “lives” or “sleeps” and put it to bed on it’s shelf. For the Miller kids, toy stores are for borrowing, not buying.

2.) Christmas is about love, joy, peace, hope, and giving…not getting. We spend the Advent season leading up to Christmas with a fun family activity for each day. We eat treats, we make crafts, we pray for people, we serve each other (in fun ways…like making someone else’s bed after you get a chance to jump on it), we watch movies, we act out the Christmas story, we go for winter walks, and drink tea together. At some point along the way, we also make a big deal of a family trip to the Dollar Tree where they get to carefully choose several items to give to family members. They pick them, they pay for them, they wrap them. It’s all very top secret and very fun. So, when Christmas morning comes, what’s often the most exciting thing? Watching someone open the gift that you have been keeping a surprise and are SO excited to give them.

I love these ways we’ve “brainwashed” our children. We are attempting to teach them lessons that many adults have yet to master, and in the process, we are experiencing firsthand the joy that comes from giving, serving, loving, and living simply.

We know these are fragile constructs. It’s not the way our Western world works.

And this week, I was so tempted to conform.

Sariya has a mid-December birthday and the boys hadn’t had a chance to pick out gifts for her, so the three kids and I braved the Christmas shoppers and hit up Five Below (I was too chicken to visit Toys ‘R Us). Each kid wanted their own mesh shopping basket, so I distributed baskets and we started wandering through the store. Initially, Sariya was super thrilled just to be carrying such a cool basket. Did you know you can wear them on your head and see through the mesh?! Super cool.

But then she noticed something…The boys were actually there to shop and were putting things in their baskets. Oh, yeah. She could get into that.

Collect what I like? Got it. Done.

I looked at my little girl and realized that our carefully constructed “toys are for borrowing” policy was about to crumble. She was on her very first shopping spree. I knew it would NOT fly to have a double standard and let the boys collect while her basket remained empty. There is a limit to what a 2 year old can understand. So, the new policy became only one thing in your basket. If you want to keep that new thing you picked up, then you have to put the other thing back. And she did. After changing her mind three times, she walked out with only one item.

But it wasn’t just Sariya that was affected by our trip.We spent over 30 minutes browsing that giant room full of toys and I found myself succumbing to the Sariya-syndrome…I wanted to buy it all too!

Ky and Judah would LOVE that game.  Sariya would be so cute in that hat.   My kids would be so happy to play with this. They would be so surprised to receive that. And it was only $5! Or $3! Or $1! What’s one dollar??!

I wanted to spend and wrap and give. It could be so fun to shop for them and it could be so easy to just buy buy buy.

Then I remembered that all three kids get fully celebrated (and fully gifted) on their close-to-Christmas birthdays. And I remembered the pile of toys we just got rid of and the pile of toys we still have. And I remembered that for most of the morning they played with my kitchen broom instead of their toy pile (true story). And I remembered that miraculously, we have been able to keep Jesus’ birthday about love, joy, peace, hope and…well…His birth. And I realized that if I give in now, if I let the stuff win, it could all crumble.

I don’t want a Season full of wish lists and “I wants” and packages torn through and stuff they don’t need and gifts discarded and “why didn’t I gets.”

I want a Season full of celebration and family and friends and simple joys and cherished gifts and Jesus. Lot’s of Jesus.

That’s what I want for Christmas.