Parenting is like herding cats. I don’t know who first said that to me, someone wise and honest (my favorite kind of person), but I know I heard it more than once and I know I say it twice a day.
Especially when you have to get your kids out of the house and into a car. If I could outsource one part of parenting, that would be it. I would hire some nice, unsuspecting person (or maybe a very smart sheepdog) whose entire job consisted of overseeing the evacuation of my house and the car incarceration.
You know how it goes, lots of me screaming, “It’s time to go.” And lots of reactive screaming: “I can’t find my shoes.” “Eve stole my backpack.” “I hate those shoes.” “London lost Leo (the pet rat). “I don’t want to goooo.”
Etcetera. Ad nauseum.
When the front door finally closes behind us, odds are somebody’s crying, somebody’s forgotten their shoes, and somebody left her keys on the counter.
Next comes crossing the yard, navigating treacherous hazards like fire ants, wind, a too-sunny sun or, Heaven forbid, rain. Things will be dropped. Children will casually plop down and pick flowers. Mother will whisper-yell.
When we arrive at the car, the hardest part is still to come: seat belts. My children do not willingly accept self restraint. They will sit in the wrong seat. They will argue over who sat in what seat last. They will say they cannot, just cannot put their seat belts on themselves. There will be much drama. And much use of the word “consequences.” And sometimes, the administration of said consequences.
One day, after a particularly rough extrication, I looked in my rear view mirror and said, “Do you girls know how much it would mean to me if once, just once, you’d get ready and walk to the car and put on your seat belts without Mommy having to beg?”
London said, “I’m sorry mom.”
Eve said, “I love you.”
And I said, “If you loved me, you’d obey me.” And I threw the car into reverse.
If my kids, four and five, really loved me, they’d put on their shoes and walk to the car and put their own stupid seat belts on. Because it’s easy enough to do, and because it would mean the world to me.
Don’t give me any of that “they’re still little” junk. They know better. Best believe that.
[[[No really, don’t feel bad for them. I’m about to explain how we’re just like them…]]]
When I read Jesus say, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching,” I feel him. Because to love someone is to listen to her and to know her and to want (deep down) to bless her. My kids may love me with kisses and hugs and giggles—fun things to share—but they’re getting old enough to start sacrificing for love, to choose me over their laziness, to choose my happiness over their own.
I tell my girls, love is giving something up for someone else.
And I’m talking to myself as much as I’m talking to them.
Because I don’t always like giving things up either.
When I look at my children being disobedient, I see me—me whining, pretending to read a book, or just sitting on the couch with no shoes while God tries to drag me out the door.
He’s probably taking me somewhere great. I know that’s usually what I’m trying to do for my kids. He’s probably going to feed me or show me something beautiful or teach me something.
But I just want what I want. And I act like a four year old, and I don’t obey.
Maybe I’m wrong, but I think most of us just want to do what we want. And so we choose a church that’ll let us think what we already think. Or skip church because it makes us uncomfortable. We choose friends who do what we like to do, and say the same things we like to say with houses exactly as nice as our own and movie taste like ours. And all along we’re just doing what we like, never considering that maybe it isn’t what God wants for us, that maybe loving God takes giving something up.
Sometimes God’s yelling “It’s time to go” and we’re acting like we can’t hear Him over the noise of the TV, making excuses, and otherwise dawdling in a sort-of-passive, sort-of-active disobedience.
I sometimes think God the Father looks over at Jesus, shakes his head, and says, “Herding. Cats.” To which the Spirit, I’m sure, says, “You have no idea.”
I don’t want God shaking His head at me. I don’t want Him to feel ignored. I don’t want Him wishing I’d just do what He says. I don’t want to leave Him wondering whether or not I love Him.
Because I actually, truly do love God—at least I want to. I want to make sacrifices for Him, the tiny sacrifices I’m able to make. I want to listen to Him. Even when I don’t want what He wants, I want to do it anyway.
A few weeks ago I was getting ready to take the girls somewhere and as I finished my hair, I yelled the usual “It’s time to go.” I heard scurrying and then the front door slammed closed.
I stepped out of my room and into the living room and couldn’t find the girls anywhere.
So I walked outside—nowhere—and then to the car.
I opened the back car door, and there, sitting in their car seats, buckled and smiling so big, were my two girls. London looked at Eve. Eve giggled. London looked back at me. She said, “We love you, Mom.”
And I said (crying, of course), “I know you do.”