Hiding Rats

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“Dad we buried a rat in the dirt pile!” My three year old exclaimed.

Excuse me?

He couldn’t tell him when this happened because he doesn’t yet understand the concept of time. I had a flashback to yesterday when the three year old and the four year old were playing in the dirt pile right before lunch. Lord I hope I told them to wash their hands before lunch.

Then I had a flashback (WAY back) to 25 years ago when my sister and I buried a dead butterfly in our front yard and held a mini funeral session. I’m sure that’s how things went down yesterday—ha.

So I asked my four year old what happened. He was hesitant to answer me. He said he threw a rock at it before his younger brother buried it in the dirt. I didn’t mind that he hadn’t told me, but I did find it interesting because he always tells me everything without prompting, usually more details than I want to know.

I laughed when he finished talking about it, and he grinned a look of embarrassment and relief. I asked why he hadn’t told me, and he said he thought I would be mad. Grossed out maybe, but not mad.

I can get over the fact that they touched a rat. There’s been (and will likely be) worse things. What bothered me was that he felt the need to keep it from me.

I told him I wanted to see it. A big part of me thought (and hoped) that maybe they were wrong. Maybe it was just a mouse? Or maybe they completely made it up?

I climbed on the top of this tiny mountain in the yard. I watched them excitedly throw off every one of the 20+ rocks they had piled up. I cringed (you know, one of those little shimmy-shakes you do with your neck and shoulders) when I saw a couple inches worth of fur sticking out from the dirt.

Yep, they were right. I should have taken their word for it. I”ll spare you the pictures of the rat.

My four year old is starting to keep things from me. No, this rat incident isn’t a huge deal, but the timing is interesting.

I’ve been thinking about teenagers lately. I help lead Wednesday night youth group, I have friends with teenagers, I have family and friends who teach teenagers…I am learning a lot about teenagers and the choices some of them are making.

I’m not completely naive. I was that age not too long ago. But it seems worse now. I could blame it on cell phones, less parent involvement, too much time out of the house, etc., but regardless, the choices they make now are going to affect the rest of their lives. That’s cliche, and when I was their age, I was so tired of hearing adults say that. But seriously!

As I sit here and enjoy toddler land, I laugh at our current issues which include the three year old trying to pour his own parmesan cheese and the four year old giggling over the word “butt”. It’s all about to change. My oldest is starting kindergarten this year, and many of you have told me that time speeds up by about 400% at that point.

There will soon be a day when I no longer know 97% of what my boys are doing. While I’m not a very controlling person, I want to know about the things and the people who are influencing them. I want so much to instill a love for God and a love for people that will carry over into those teenage years and beyond.

I know part of the learning process is experiencing life on their own, away from Mom and Dad. I want them to learn for themselves why things are right or wrong and the consequences that come with choices. I don’t want to shelter them to the point that they don’t get a chance to learn and they start despising me. But goodness—where do I find a balance between letting them go and holding them close?

I guess it starts with letting them find and bury their own rats.

My biggest desire is to keep an open line of communication. I don’t want them to be scared to tell us about what they’re doing, but I also don’t want to shame them into talking to us.

So what is this going to look like in a few short years? I have no idea, but I’m praying now—not because I’m scared, but because I want to enter that time cautiously, aware of what could happen and aware of the best way to handle things. I want to guide them the best we can. I’m clinging to the word of God which tells me:

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

“Train up a child in the way he should go; Even when he is hold he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6

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