“ahhh, kids are just the most innocent, simple, and beautiful little things on the Earth!!!” — said the barista at Thunderbird Coffee as I walk in to order 4 hot chocolates for my 4-member flock of kids waddling behind me like drunk ducks.
“uhh, what are you talking about, dude?” I jokingly replied. “kids appear innocent.. they appear simple.. they appear beautiful.. but dude they are the most selfish, stupid, complex, loud little tyrants on the Earth!” I whispered, hoping my kids wouldn't hear. Of course, I could try to argue with my friend, the 20-something single guy, but it wouldn't do any good! He hasn't yet had the “joys” of sleepless nights with babies, mediating fights over pokemon, or cleaning up poop that was smudged on the bathroom wall because someone wanted to spell their name with the smelly brown substance on their forefinger. He hasn't been graced yet with a bounty of trash and cheerios in the floorboard of his car, or having to leave a restaurant because one sibling's hand slammed another sibling's face into the bowl of hot queso. It would haven taken way too long for a rebuttal to his “innocent, simple, beautiful” comment, so I just let it go. But as he ran my debit card for $14 worth of milk & chocolate my children proudly proved him incorrect!
Like a well-rehearsed ballet on a stage, my children took their places, read their scripts, and lost their freaking minds in a matter of minutes. In one sweeping moment, Thunderbird Coffee went from a peaceful coffee shop with The Head and The Heart playing quietly over the speakers… to a massive war zone of pre-pubescence and adolescence.
Story was face down on the concrete floor screaming, while throwing arms and legs in the air like a dung beetle caught upside down. We are talking Haitian angry… That's another level. She had been convinced somehow that we were getting root beers, and upon finding out hot chocolate was being purchased, her immediate response was to lose all control and scream as if her eyes were being plucked out by birds. Next to her stood Amos, clearly angry that Cayden wouldn't give back his Nintendo DS. His fists were clenched, face was red, and teeth clenched as he NAILED Cayden directly in the stomach, unintentionally forcing him backward to knock over a shelf of giant pitchers of water next to the counter. The pitchers unloaded water all over the floor, Cayden fell to his knees in pain and spent the next few minutes catching his breath. And where's Deacon? WAIT A SECOND, WHERE THE HECK IS DEACON? He was literally nowhere to be found. How does Jamie leave for 4 days, and I lose a kid? After corralling Amos and Story and Cayden to the nearby couch, paying the barista, and apologizing to the quiet college student who was trying to study her textbook “Advanced Methods in Family Therapy Research,” I began to hunt down my one missing child. No Deacon in the restroom. No Deacon in the coffee shop. No Deacon on the outside patio. Where is Deacon.
Then, I spotted him. He was stuck in the Excursion. I couldn't hear him, but i could see the look of terror and tears in his eyes and the frustration that someone inadvertently set the child locks to the “on” position on all the back doors. (must have been Story.) He was panicking as he yanked on the door handles and yelled for help. Mostly out of fear, but partly out of missing out on the hot cocoa, I'm sure.
After rescuing Deacon, I made my way back to the battlefield to pick up the hot chocolate and the crying/angry children. My friend behind the counter just laughed his face off and said, “dude…whoa…”
I felt so validated! YES!!! See!! Kids are so….stupid!! and crazy. and hard. and selfish. and…just..childish! haha.
But as I drove home, I had a change of heart. I thought about how quickly they've become 6, 8, 8 and 9, and how quickly they will become 17, 19, 19 and 20. And even though they are completely childish all the time… well, they are children. They are kids! And kids are supposed to be childish. My barista friend was so wrong.. but he was also so right. Kids really are beautiful. Beautifully difficult. Perfectly crazy. And a gracious reminder that we are all, in many senses, still kids. It makes me think about my sonship with God in such a deeper and more grateful way. He is my perfect Father, but I am his selfish son. I complain, go wayward, get selfish and entitled and stop trusting and believing that He's even trustworthy, yet He does not get frustrated or angry. Instead, He continually gives nothing but patience and grace and presence.
My role as their father isn't to make them perfect or expect them to be sane. My role as their father isn't to see them in a negative light or cause other's to be convinced that kids should be seen in a negative light. Quite the opposite! My role is to be for them a dim reflection of a Brighter and Greater Father. One that embraces the imperfections, has grace towards the selfishness, and loves and loves and loves and loves without an expectation of return. That's the dad I want to be… That's the dad they need me to be.
I am the stupidest kid there is! But, my Father God just keeps loving and embracing. So, bring it on tyrants. I'm your dad. I'll be there to unlock the kid-locks, carry you to the couch while you throw your fit, and clean up all the spilled water from the coffee shop floor. I'm your dad.