There have been many times in the two years that I have had the privilege of being Oliver's Mom that the Lord has used parenting moments to teach me beautiful things about His character.
Yesterday was one of those moments.
I was working on cleaning the kitchen in preparation for making supper and Oliver was milling around the downstairs, getting into things, asking for juice and various favors and so on. He was particularly interested in the jar of Halloween candy that was sitting on the countertop (he likes to say in his most delighted, surprised voice, "There it is!" when he sees it). He was asking for candy and I told him that he needed to wait for supper.
A few moments later I came across a bowl full of dumdum suckers that I had had enough with moving from place to place, so I tossed them all in the trash in an effort to gain back a bit of square footage in my kitchen. Oliver saw me do that, and for the next several minutes walked around the downstairs repeating in high and low tones "SU-cker. su-CKER. SU-cker. SUCKERRR."
This was not the time for a sucker. This was time for a healthy (I use this term loosely) supper with Mom and Dad.
I left the room and when I returned, he'd upset the trash can, unwrapped a sucker, and was cheerily enjoying his forbidden fruit.
I know I should have taken it immediately, but I didn't. I let him have a few good sucks and pretended I wasn't looking. (I feel this should be included in my "Not Me Monday" post). Eventually, though, I confiscated the sucker and informed Oliver that after eating supper, he could have one chocolate chip as a treat.
After a few moments of deep grief on account of the now absent sucker, he was placated enough by the chocolate morsel promise to carry on with his milling cheerily.
I left the room a second time to hang up a few things in my closet, and when I returned, he had upset the trash can again and was clinging for dear life to a second sucker.
This was clearly an issue of direct disobedience. No more "Mister pretend-I-don't-notice Guy".
Now, before I tell you what happened next, I feel a bit of explanation will be helpful. Ryan and I believe (and, let me be the first to say that we are not perfect parents!) that in situations like this, rather than prying the object from Oliver's hands, the proper thing to do is to require him to surrender it voluntarily. (It's our two-year-old version of the "confession, repentance, forgiveness" concept).
I confronted Oliver on his offense and asked him to place the sucker in my hand. No dice.
Next, I sent Oliver to his white chair and knelt in front of him (he, of course, is clinging for dear life to his contraband). I sat there facing him for quite a while, with my hand extended, gently explaining his disobedience and why he needed to put the sucker in my hands. He cried and wailed and clung tighter and tighter to his little prize. I remained near him, hand extended, waiting for him to surrender what he thought was everything he could ever want.
As I sat there, watching my sweet child weep over the decision to let go of something he wanted so dearly, I realized that Oliver was not the only one being taught a lesson.
"Oh, Lord, that's me, isn't it? I'm the child, clinging to what I think I need, unable to trust that you have something so much better in store for me."
It was an incredibly convicting moment.
I wondered that evening, what are my suckers? What am I desperately unwilling to give to God? What am I so certain that I need, so unwilling to trust God about, so sure I know the very best for myself?
One of my greatest "suckers" is the idea of what my family should look like. Several weeks ago, after Claire photographed our family, she and I sat together and looked over the proofs. As we came across one photo of the three of us, it just caught my breath. I had such different ideas of what our family portrait would look like in October 2008 than what it actually does. I thought there'd be a 6-month-old baby girl, or at least the bump of a tummy. I imagined that Ryan and I would have children close together in age. We "planned" that we would just have our children all in the course of a few years, then leave childbearing behind us to focus on parenting only. We've really clung tightly to that, but God has just sat with us, His hand extended, asking us to give our family portrait to Him.
We're learning to do this. There's been a whole lot of kicking and screaming and clinging along the way. But, as we're learning to let go, He's teaching us that He is in control and that Has great plans for us.
Well, after a long time of quietly sitting with Oliver while he wrestled with his choice to obey, he did finally place the sucker in my hand (tears still streaming). Believe it or not, the moment he placed the sucker in my hand, the relief was visible on his face. I commended him for his decision and he thrust himself forward out of the chair and into my arms. Reconciliation is so sweet. :)
And, only a few moments later, Grandma called and invited us to join her for pizza at Mellow Mushroom downtown for dinner! Who could have known what a special treat of good food and fellowship awaited Oliver on the other side of that doggone sucker? :)