(Note: This one is not for the squeamish, the prudish, or the easily-offended.)
Pardon my (Old) French,*
but I’ve been dealing with a lot of crap lately.
The highlight of last week may have been when I was scooping poop off the freshly-professionally-cleaned carpet with a serving spoon. Employing a diversionary tactic to stave off the dry heaves, I started thinking about what great lyrics that would be for a country song. “I’m just sittin’ here scoopin’ up poop with a servin’ spoon...” Feel free to make up your own tune.
Sometimes it seems like that’s just what life is. One fine mess to clean up after the next.
It was my own fault, actually.
We were trying a new experiment, where James lived at the apartment in LA with me for a week, while Katherine and Jay went back to Casa Colina for therapy. We had a grand old time together, grandma and grandboy. We went on outings to the beach, to the park, to UCLA...we read books and watched Sesame Street and went swimming....we took naps and ate snacks together...and we played housekeeping tug-of-war. This is where the grandboy does things like turns over the trash can and starts eating stuff out of it while the grandmother is cleaning up the shampoo he emptied out on the bathroom floor. Then, while she’s cleaning up the trash, he sneaks back in the bathroom and starts flushing her earrings down the toilet. While she tries to fish out the earrings, he runs back to the kitchen and brandishes a knife from the dishwasher. When she (calmly) retrieves the knife and resumes cleaning up the trash, she discovers a stash of silverware hidden in it...purloined from the same source. By that point, he’s pulled the placemats off of the dining table, the books off the bookshelf, and is playing with matches. It’s an action-packed game that can go on all day. (17-month-olds are fast little buggers, whereas grandmas are 'slowing down,' so he usually won.)
I think there are many reasons why it should be deemed medically unethical for doctors to artificially inseminate 50-somethings.
Anyway, we kind of had a routine and a flow going. I knew the ground rules. The existing condition was that James was teething molars. Four of them at the same time. Evidently that provokes the development of several unsavory symptoms. They include the production of a unique type of diarrhea multiple times a day, a constantly running nose, and a personality change so severe that, at one point, I was looking in the Yellow Pages under “Exorcists.” (Thanks, George.) James was a Mean, Green, Poopin’ Machine.
I’d already made the mistake once. I had impulsively pulled off a dirty diaper in the living room without first checking to see if there were any wipes around. I instructed James to lie on the floor without moving and continue watching “Yeah-yo.” I sprinted around to the bedroom and back in about 30 seconds...to discover a nice, fresh, juicy pile awaiting me. James scrunched up his face, sniffed loudly, and said, “Euuuuuwwwwhhhhhhhh” so adorably that I just had to laugh.
You’d think I’d learn from my mistakes. On the day in question, we were getting ready to get in the bathtub. In the amount of time it took to take the diaper off and test the water with my hand, James had produced a puddle on the bathroom floor the size of Lake Michigan and was happily splashing around in it. We slipped and slid our way into the tub and got nice and clean. As we were getting out, the phone rang. I wasn’t planning on answering it, but James was so excited at the thought that it might be his grandfather (“BigB!!! BigB!!! Hello! Hello!"), that I ran for it. After a sweet little conversation, I put him down for a second while I finished talking grownup talk. James ran around the corner in his monkey towel. Literally less than a minute later, I ran after him....to find a gushy volcanic eruption decorating the carpet, guilty little footprints trailing away from it. When James saw his grandmother’s face, he started wailing.
We got back in the bathtub.
After putting James down for his nap, I began my job with the serving spoon. About half way through the cleaning, I had an epiphany:
Life is full of messes.
Some are inevitable, but most are of our own creation. We want our freedom. We despise confinement. We want to do what we want to do, whenever and wherever we feel like doing it.
In addition to that high-schooler, I think there’s a 17-month-old that still resides inside us all.
I wish I could allow James all the freedom he desires. I’d love to let him run wild and free. (And naked as the day he came.) But when I do, he just makes another huge mess and then steps in it...leaving behind a trail of the tracks of his guilt. I find myself constantly having to confine him for his own good. Constantly having to deprive him of things he thinks he wants.
But my love for him is fierce and strong. I am willing to do whatever it takes to form the kind of character in him that is pleasing to his Maker...as his Maker does for me. Sometimes that causes conflict between us. Because of the unique set of circumstances in which our family is living right now, sometimes I have to discipline him in a way that grandmothers hate to do. (We’re just supposed to be doling out candy.)
Here’s the irony: after the discipline, through tears of anger and frustration at not getting his own way, to whom does he turn for comfort?? He buries his head in the policewoman’s shoulder, and hugs her neck. Sometimes I even get a little kiss.
Scooping up the poop that day, I realized that no matter how many messes I have to clean up, it is a joy because of how much I love the little mess himself. I can put up with his crap from now until the cows come home, but I’m not going to let him wallow in it. I will clean him up as many times as he gets dirty.
Praise be to God, my Father, who daily does the same for me....whatever mess I get myself into.
2 British dialect crap, craps residue from rendered fat, from Middle English crappe, perhaps from Old French crappe chaff, residue, from Medieval Latin
nonsense , rubbish ; also : stuff
“His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff..." (Luke 3:17)
"God renders the working of grace slow and obscure, so that he may keep us in the darkness of faith......He frees us from self by revealing our weaknesses and corruptions in a multitude of backslidings. All this dealing seems perfectly natural, and it is by this succession of natural means that we are burnt as by a slow fire. We should like to be consumed at once by the flames of pure love, but such an end would scarcely cost us anything. It is only an excessive self-love that desires to become perfect in a moment and at so cheap a rate...
Is the surgeon cruel because he cuts to the quick? No, on the contrary, it is both love and skill. He would treat his only and well-beloved son.
It is the same way with God. He never afflicts us except against his own inclination. His fatherly heart is not gladdened at the sight of our misery, but he cuts to the quick, that he may heal the disease in our soul. He must snatch away from us whatever we cling to too fondly, and all that we love inordinately, contrary to his claim upon us. He acts in this as we do by our children. They cry because we take away the knife which was their amusement but might have been their death. We weep, we become discouraged, we cry aloud. We are ready to murmur against God, as children get angry with their mothers. But God lets us weep and secures our salvation. He afflicts only to amend. Even when he seems to overwhelm, he means nothing but good: it is only to spare us the evils we were preparing for ourselves. The things we now lament for a little while would have caused us to mourn forever..."
Francois Fenelon (1651-1715)