He was sleeping happily on the couch when we hoisting him upright and informed him, “It’s time to go. Get up!”
If you’ve never roused a four-year-old from a late-afternoon nap, you have no idea of the battle which ensues.
He did not want to go, and he demonstrated that by shouting and flailing. Hiding under his blanket didn’t help (he was amazed that we could find him so easily), and when he started kicking, I decided he didn’t need to wear shoes anyway.
“I don’t want to go!” he wailed, but his 16-year-old brother took that as a challenge and flung him over his shoulder like a sack of flour.
Pummeling his big brother’s back, my littlest boy bellowed all the way to the van where he was dropped, shoved into his seat, and belted in before he could escape.
The shouting and protesting continued as we drove for twenty minutes to our destination, all of us trying to ignore his yelling as well as someone can ignore a horde of stinging wasps.
His shouts continued as we piled out of the van, and we received many looks of curiosity and amusement—and probably some disapproval—as we hauled out our protesting son and got in line behind the two hundred or so already ahead of us.
“I . . . do . . . not . . . want . . . to . . . do . . . this!” He was nearly dry-heaving now, and I ignored everyone’s stares around us as I held my objecting preschooler.
Not soon enough, the gates opened, the crowd before us piled in, and we followed, with angry boy still held tightly in my arms.
He quieted as he saw the scene before him, remembering that we did this last year, remembering that it wasn’t as awful as he thought.
He saw the piles of free pizzas—his favorite.
He saw the swimming pools—reserved for all of us who participated in the summer reading program set up by our local library.
He saw the water slides—and I could feel his rigid body go soft.
He wanted this.
But he wasn’t about to show that. Not yet. After all of his protestations, his pride couldn’t let him surrender so quickly.
So we sat down at a picnic table as the other kids and parents rushed into the water. He watched with both longing and resentment in his eyes.
My husband leaned over to me and whispered, “Go wade in the kiddie pool. I bet he’ll follow.”
So I announced my intentions to our son, then strode over to the pool. My feet had barely touched the water when he was by my side, dancing in excitement.
“So you want to go in?” I queried.
“YES!” he cried. Forgotten was his early protests, maybe forgotten was his twenty-minute temper tantrum, certainly forgotten was his pride as he began to strip, right there, to get out of his pants and underwear.
Discreetly I brought him back to our table where we covered him with a towel and put on his swimsuit. Then he ran—even though we shouted to only walk—back to the kiddie pool.
No amount of water could have wiped the smile off his face as he played and splashed and pretended to swim. We went down the big water slides together, and with joy he climbed out of the landing pool and raced back to the pool—the deep one, though—and jumped right in.
Dad followed, because our four-year-old can’t swim, and even though he bobbed under the water a couple of times until Dad could rescue him, he was still smiling as he coughed and spluttered to clear his lungs.
Pizza was eaten, the boy was nearly drowned a few more times, and a good time was had by all.
At the end of the evening when the sun went down and the winds came up, he was eager to be wrapped up in a towel and brought back home to a warm bath.
“So,” I started casually as I washed the chlorine off of him that night, “are you glad you went to the pool with us?”
“Even though you were screaming and crying that you didn’t want to?”
He laughed. Oh, that was so three hours ago!
I was about to be smug that I was right all along—he would enjoy it—until I felt God tapping me on the shoulder, as He occasionally does, to point out something He knows I’ll bite my tongue about later.
How many times has God placed before me a situation that I didn’t want because it would yank me out of my warm, soft spot?
How often has He dragged me away, kicking and screaming, to a new adventure?
How often has He patiently ignored my protests, even when I was utterly ridiculous in my complaints?
How often did He sit next to me, long-suffering, as I surveyed the scene before me, knowing that I’d want it, but that my pride wouldn’t yet let me admit it?
How often has He gently led me to the water, waiting for me to finally give up and jump in with both feet?
How often has He chuckled as I bounded and cheered and flopped and laughed with joy at my new situation that I was so sure I did not want?
And, perhaps most importantly, how long until I quit instantly whining to God whenever He thrusts me into a new situation that I will eventually love?
I’m afraid my pride won’t allow me to answer that just yet.
“There’s another plan for you, my boy. You’ve changed your path before, now do it again.”
~Book 3, The Mansions of Idumea