On Friday's during the summer, I have been watching my friend's kiddos. They are 3 and 5 years old. Most of the time, we have a lot of fun together; we play at the park, we go to the zoo, and we go swimming. This particular Friday was not one of our "fun" times together. From early in the morning, the kids were whining and fighting with each other. I was also a bit sleep deprived which made the entire situation feel much more dramatic.
I had taken the kids to MacDonald's for breakfast with the intent of playing on the play structure following the meal. Unfortunately, we did not make it to the play area before the kiddos were whining, stealing napkins, and generally being a bit naughty. "Sorry, we don't get to play unless we can follow the rules" I informed them, and we piled in the car and headed home.
"I want napkins" repeated the 5 year old incessantly on the drive home. I ignored him; he eventually quit. Later that morning, we headed out to the park. A perfectly fun activity, right? Not when you're so tired you run into one of the playground structures as the 3 year old managed to do. So, the park time only lasted for about 15 minutes. Deep breaths. Exhausted. Tired and cranky kiddos. "Maybe we can have kids in 20 years" I mentioned to Rob in passing.
That afternoon, I was planning to take the kids to the swimming pool. However, I insisted that they both take naps or at least stay on their sofa's and be quiet for a bit. Neither things happened. So no swimming. "Mom," I texted, "Help. I have two tired and cranky kids and I still have about an hour left."
Mom, being the sage that she is texted back the brilliant idea to try making play-doh together. Play-doh! How perfect. So I googled a recipe that did not include the finer ingredients (cream of tartar), and the kids and I were off to our play-doh making adventure. About 10 minutes after we got started, my friend and her family came up to our apartment to say hi, and we all happily made play-doh creations together. "The kids are so well-behaved" said my friend. I nearly laughed out loud. Life is funny.
On the drive to drop the kids off at their grandma's house, they both fell asleep. During the drive, I was a bit anxious because I was going to join some college friends for a picnic right after I dropped the kids off. I looked a bit disheveled and had nothing prepared to contribute for the picnic. "Never-mind that" I coaxed myself. "Your presence is contribution enough."
The traffic on the drive was a bit heavy so both the kiddos got about half hour naps. At the same time, I was becoming even later for the picnic engagement I was supposed to attend. I pulled into my friend's mom's yard. Boy was I glad to hand over the reigns of responsibility to her. As she greeted me, she asked me if I wanted any pasta salad. Pasta salad!
"Wow--I would love some" I gleamed. "I have a picnic to attend and I have no idea what to bring." At that moment, I felt so blessed; God had heard my prayer and my anxiety even about something so small as what to bring to a picnic. Having God provide for me like that showed me that he really desired me to attend that picnic and was going to remove any barriers that might have prevented it.
Moreover, watching my friend's kids right now feels more like an act of obedience than anything else. I would love to have my Fridays free to sleep in late, catch up with friends and frolic in the Twin Cities. But because of my promise to my friend and my sense that there are deeper lessons to be learned in the frustration I sometimes feel with the kiddos, I have decided to stick with it. And maybe even the timely pasta salad was God's way of telling me he was pleased.