It started with one. Just one little piece of cereal in two tiny fingers. Squirrely fingers. Little boy fingers.
Those little boy fingers flicked that little round donut shape just a few short inches from a bowl full of them – not far, but far enough to let me know my precious grandson wasn’t interested in eating the thing. He just wanted to make a mess with it. And see what I would do.
I smiled. And watched. One little piece? No biggie. Let’s see what he does next…
He shifted his attention to the rest of them…little fingers digging through the bowl as they spilled all over the side. I could have sworn I saw a gleam in his eye that hinted this was feeling really darn-good to his soul. His gap-tooth smile confirmed it.
So I smiled back. And asked him to please put them back in the bowl.
He smiled back too. And started dumping more out. Oh, geeze.
I told him I’d count to three and if he didn’t clean up, he would have to go in time-out.
One, two, three…
Thus began forty minutes of hell on earth. Have you ever had to “correct” a too-smart-for-his-own-good, hyperactive toddler going on three? I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy. But alas, a Nana must do what a Nana must do. And so, this Nana put her Boo in time-out, screams and all, with the instruction that as soon as he was ready to clean up his mess, he could come out.
He could give a rip. So I waited five minutes and then had a little chat with him. He still refused to comply so I gently walked away.
His tantrum went on for another few minutes, until I went back and nicely asked him to clean up. He stopped long enough to look at me, but once again refused and resumed his screaming. No tears, mind you; just short, blood-curdling, make-your-neighbors-think-you’re-torturing-him screams. Fun times.
After about the third or fourth time of doing this, I sat down in front of him and softly whispered, real serious-like, and asked him to look me in the eyes. That got his attention. (Whispers do that, you know – make you lean in to hear. Yelling only repels.) I told him I was so bummed he was making this choice because I wanted to play with him! And as soon as he made a healthy choice to clean up, we could play! It sounded so reasonable, so positive, so appealing; I was sure he would make the right decision this time.
Yeah, right. All he did was resume screaming.
My mom happened to be there with me at the time and, God bless her, supported me through this whole drama…You’re doing the right thing, honey. Hang in there. Don’t give up. I wanted to; oh, how I wanted to! I would have had the instant gratification of a quiet house and calmed nerves. We could have played cars and eaten that evil cereal.
But I am so glad I didn’t give in. Because I would later come to realize that this was a huge learning moment. Oh, not for him.
You see, it would only be a few, short days later, when I was complaining to God about how hard a situation was and how badly I wanted to give up, that a question would be whispered to my heart and catch my own attention:
Are you willing to wait forty minutes, Sherri? Are you willing to put up with a long, hard period of time for a better pay-off in the end?
It is so hard to go through hard stuff. Why does that always surprise us?
I’ve never been much into New Year’s resolutions, but this coming year I want to lose that four pounds I put on at Christmastime. FOUR POUNDS.
But I still want those See’s Candies sitting on my counter, and the yummy cobbler I made, and banana bread with butter…
This coming year I want to continue to better my marriage.
But I’d rather tune-out after a long day of working…watch television…and not have to put in so much time and effort…
This coming year I want to read more, exercise more, learn more.
But I love going out with my friends, doing computer puzzles, and chatting on the phone…
I don’t want to have to put in effort. I don’t want to have to keep going. I don’t want to wait forty minutes. And I sure as heck don’t want to wait a tortuous forty minutes. I want instant gratification. A quiet life; an easy life. With calm nerves.
But, as the old saying goes, a smooth sea never made a skillful sailor. A carbs-filled tummy never made a healthy body. An effort-less relationship never made a healthy marriage. A tuned-out brain never made an improved mind.
And it makes me think…
Maybe any goals I make next year will have a much greater chance at success if I ask God to help me be willing to wait the forty tortuous minutes it takes to reach them and push through the hard, uncomfortable stuff, rather than centering my prayers on fulfillment. Maybe they should be centered on asking for strength rather than satisfaction; endurance rather than ease; self-discipline rather than self-gratification.
After an agonizing forty minutes of him screaming and me just about losing my sanity, my grandson finally decided to clean up. At first, he handed my mom – his great-grandma – a piece of cereal, insisting she put it in the bowl for him. Little booger.
As if someone else can do the hard stuff for us and we reap the benefits.
But as much as I’d have loved to let that be okay, I knew I could not – for his sake. He would have to do the hard, uncomfortable work of putting it all back himself, and I would have to do the hard, uncomfortable work of making sure he did.
In the end, through lots of high-five’s, we celebrated our strengthened characters and humbled hearts from pushing through. I think those are the absolute best results that can come from our New Year’s resolutions anyway. After all, they are the only ones that we will take with us into forever.
Wishing you a blessed and fulfilling New Year!
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