Yesterday, I found myself teaching my son something I never expected: How to point his penis out and pee into a bush.
I’ve told you we’ve been a looooong process of potty training (since January) and August has been very determined about what he’s not going to do. His list includes: peeing standing up (“That’s for when I’m big like Daddy. I’m just a little boy!”), peeing anywhere but at home, and pooping anywhere but in his underwear or pull-up. His list is not cool.
So, yesterday when we left the house for our nature walk with friends, I told him he was wearing his underwear and he would either pee his pants and be sad or pee in the bushes and be awesome! Amazingly, in a moment of panic on the trail, he chose awesomeness and he and I were both really proud of ourselves. (It may have even been a turning point in the whole potty training experience. Don’t worry, I’ll keep you updated, whether you want me to or not.)
We ended up on this nature walk because my Mom’s Group has just finished a three-week course on what it means to be a “missional family.” I’m still processing most of it, but I was challenged (again) with the notion of “making space for God” for our kids by fighting against our culture’s obsession with filling every hour in their days with stuff: classes, playgroups, toddler French lessons(!).
My friend Nancy who taught the class is a child development specialist and she stressed the importance of open time. She used this scripture in Ecclesiastes:
“Better one handful with tranquillity
than two handfuls with toil
and chasing after the wind.” (chapter 4, verse 6)
How much of our time is spent filling our kids’ hands (and our own hands) with toil and living as if the toil is what is most valuable, while our souls really know that it isn’t life-giving at all?
I know my kids are still young, but I’m preparing myself for the days of school and after school activities and homework and church and clubs, etc, etc. What does it mean to give our kids that “one handful of tranquility”? Nancy says that it means being intentional to leave space in our kids’ schedules for free play. And here’s a shocker! She said we need to allow them the chance to be bored and make something happen themselves. Remember all the wonderful things you played as a kid when you couldn’t figure out what else to do? Turns out that’s an important developmental step that most kids in our culture are missing out on.
You know what else it means to makes space for God in our kids’ lives? To allow them time and space to experience creation. For a city mom like me, that means I’ve got to get my kids into more nature than the 24 by 24 inch square of dirt around the sidewalk tree.
I planned the nature walk our playgroup went on yesterday precisely because I know I need to be intentional about getting my boy into the woods. He picked up sticks and ran free (something that rarely happens). He screamed a disturbingly high-pitched scream when he saw bugs. He hates bugs. (Poor little city-boy.) And then he peed in a bush.
I call that a successful day in God’s creation.
So now I will awkwardly transition into telling you to read this article in The Atlantic. It’s an interview with the author of Fifty Dangerous Things (You Should Let Your Children Do). Because, as the article says, “It takes work to raise a child who can use a table saw, build a campfire, and chart a course for herself after growing up.”
Sometimes, it even means that you pull down your kids pants in the woods, and help him aim…