Lila runs in, a small scratch on her cheek, tiny crimson beads appearing like a misplaced smile and cutting across the dirt on her skin. It’s close to dinnertime, so I send her to the bath. It’s just a little scrape, but after an afternoon of playing outdoors, she is walking filth.
In the bathroom, she wails for me. First at the injustice of being held indoors while her friends are still running in the yard, but then, as the door closes behind me, it’s fear. She is terrified by some glimpse she caught this morning of an episode of Scooby-Doo, that apparently involved more than silly dog-gibberish, the eating of submarine sandwiches and the unmasking of bad guys (which is most of my recollection of the series.)
I let her wail. I tell her, calmly, she is safe. She is fine. She loves baths. I am here, right here, cooking dinner on the other side of this door, holding your two year old sister on my hip. Nothing is going to get you.
She pleads for me, refuses to bathe, refuses to take her dirt caked shoes off. Now, anger overriding the terror in her tone, she screams at me. And so I go.
I go to the bathroom, insist through my (now clenched) teeth, she is FINE. TAKE A BATH.
But she wants me to check the closet. And so I do, but with a huff, with my mind on the dinner in the oven, with Evaline scrambling down at my feet now. I tell her it’s only a vacuum, some cat food cans, my wedding dress hanging down. Our bathroom closet is nothing to fear.
She sees for herself, but it’s not enough.
Forty-minutes later, the bath water is cold, beyond frustrated, I put her (screaming) into the shower. I wash her hair, put supper on the table for her siblings and then send her, wet and in tears, to bed. At 5:45, with kids riding bikes past her window.
Half an hour later, Asher stirs her while going to get dressed after his own bath. I hug her, look her square in the eye and tell her I’m sorry for all that we just went through, and that no matter what I ever do right or wrong, God loves her better than me. In all every way I’ll ever fail you, God won’t. And I’m sorry.
Truth is, she was only scared of something that’s nonsense to me, but that should not have mattered so much in the moment. In her wailing for me, in her pleading that I come and sit with her while she bathed, all I wanted was for her to just trust me when I told her that she was going to be fine.
Truth is, while getting dinner on the table and caring for her three other siblings is also important, sometimes, I think I am missing an empathy chip.
As Lila sat down to eat her reheated dinner plate, Asher was still naked from his own bath. He couldn’t find underwear and asked for my help.
I dug through his drawers, found nothing. Follow me, I said to him and marched out of his room to mine, where I knew I had a pile of laundry waiting to be folded, a pile of four-year-old sized briefs and pajamas.
He hung back, which I took as disobedience. In a huff, after the hour spent with Lila, I muttered into the pile of laundry, why don’t my children just trust me when I tell them something? Why don’t they just listen?
Asher arrived, naked still, and stood by my side, ‘cause you didn’t tell me what you were doing. You just said to follow you and I didn’t have any underwear.
Truth is, half the time that I am wondering why my children don’t trust me, I am not telling them clearly what I am doing and why. I am more action than words, more results than motive.
Truth is, I’m just as guilty of not wanting to move until I know exactly what I am moving toward either.
But God tells me to just trust, blindly and like a child ought to trust his/her parent. Because just as I want what is best for them, he wants what is best for me.
And I have no idea why that message seemed to be so necessary for me to have it drilled into my heart today, but it was. And I’m going to just trust that it’s something I ought to cling to at this moment.
Truth is, with so many decisions looming there on the horizon, it might actually just be nice to let go and follow for a few footsteps.