Throughout our lives we go through cycles where different people are “our bosses” and control our lives. As children we are subject to our parents, teachers, and on occasion, our ecclesiastical leaders like a Pastor, Reverend, Bishop or Father. When we marry there are some of us who would say that we are the subjects of a kingdom run by our spouses, jumping when they say ‘jump’, taking out the garbage when they say so and generally catering to their needs. The degree to which we do these things with a smile on our faces has everything to do with our overall happiness.
Last week I wrote about a scary medical issue our daughter, Michelle, and her family had been going through with the premature birth of their fifth child. Today I am happy to report that our grandson, Lincoln, is tiny but he is gaining weight nearly every day. Our Daughter is also doing far better than they expected, having been discharged from the hospital.
While our daughter has been focused on getting well, we have taken our turn running their household. The four kids that are at home are 10, 8, 6 and 4. Because this medical condition came out of nowhere, our grandchildren didn’t have a chance to prepare for their mother being gone for up to a month without any advance warning or notice. Thankfully, my wife and I have been a part of their lives since each was born, spending at least a few weeks in their home every time a child is born. The kids have also spent a lot of time at our home in Burley, so having us around seemed quite natural to them.
After driving through the night to relieve a helpful neighbor who had taken over the care of the four kids while their mother and father were whisked away in a life flight aircraft, we arrived and tried to reassure the kids that all would be well. The first 24-hours was somewhat of a novelty with us being in charge, giving them lots of slack in what they did, and especially ate each evening.
On the second night, families from our daughter’s church family began bringing in meals for the family to eat. Given the fact that others had gone to great lengths to prepare meals that would bring us comfort and ease our burden of preparing food, we thought it was appropriate that each of the kids at least try what had been brought in to feed them.
With the first 24-hour “free pass” now expired, I insisted that Ethan, our 10-year-old, try a bite or two of the homemade lasagna that had been brought to us. Nibbling on a piece of delicious homemade garlic bread, Ethan said that he didn’t have to try anything because his dad had told him he didn’t have to eat stuff he doesn’t like. I wish I could convey in writing the attitude that Ethan displayed as he informed me of the rules he was going to live by but suffice it to say that he was defiant and resolute in his right to refuse to eat.
With lightning speed that even surprised me, I snatched Ethan’s delicious garlic bread out of his hand and informed him that he would at least try some lasagna, or he wouldn’t be eating anything else until morning. Shocked and appalled that someone would challenge him, Ethan began to argue, yelling at the top of his lungs. Finally, my wife intervened and sent him to his room. The other three children smiled and continued eating without comment, until Kylie, our 8-year-old offered a commentary on her brother’s temper. She should be a philosopher.
After about five minutes I caught some motion out of the corner of my eye, realizing that our grandson, Ethan, had climbed out his bedroom window and was now in the back yard, staring me down with a hatred that only an angry little boy could display. Not wanting to escalate the matter further, I asked my wife, Cheryl, to get him back in his room. As he walked through the kitchen, madder than ever, he offered up some commentary that included a suggestion that he might soon introduce me to his pocketknife.
I thanked him for helping me know which of his possessions he would loose next, confiscating his knife and storing it where it won’t soon be found. About an hour later he sent out a note that said: “Dear Grandpa, I am sorry for throwing a fit. Please forgive me. I am really sorry. Included on the note was a drawing of a snake, Ethan’s favorite animal.
Looking at the drawing a little closer I began to laugh uncontrollably. Not looking for the hidden meaning, my wife had overlooked the fact that the snake, labeled “Ethan” was in fact bighting the head off of the character in the picture labeled “Grandpa.”
In the five days following this battle of wills, Ethan did remarkably well to keep his temper in check. His night without anything to eat had reminded him that his grandparents love him enough to demonstrate that love in ways that make one’s stomach hurt. For that week, at least, he knew who the boss was.
We believe our daughter and her husband are wonderful parents, but they are part of the new generation of parents who believe they have a better way of raising their children. Perhaps, but for that one week we were able to remind our grandchildren that they should pray for their parent’s health, because if something happens to them, our rules apply.