Monday, February 18, 2008

Oh Boys!

When my 4 1/2 year old son, Graham's, temperament began to emerge, we realized that as strong-willed as we thought Justus had been, (now age 15 and still somewhat strong-willed), that we were in for more than we could ever have imagined. I remember "pre-Graham" seeing children pitching tantrums in the store and thinking, "Oh, my, I'm so glad Justus never did that!" Well, I am glad, but I can certainly relate, now that we have Graham. You see, Graham is the child that at age 3 1/2 over and over said, " I am going to the little house!!!" despite the fact that we were in the van traveling away from the little house (our place to stay in Hamilton on weekends, before we moved here) towards home in Ft. Worth. He didn't yell or pitch a fit, only very calmly stated it over and over for almost an hour (practically half the way home) as if he could will it to happen somehow if he said it enough. With this fact in place I come to the point of my story, now!
If you have known me for very long you have probably heard our Justus-chicken story by now. But for those of you who have not, let me try to give a brief overview. When Justus was age 5 we were living in Seminary housing across from Southwestern in the town houses which are towards the back of that complex. The apartments at the front sit very close to a 5-lane major street and there is a traffic light there. There is also a walk-way tunnel for students to walk under that street to the Seminary, because even for adults it is too busy and dangerous to cross. Just down from that traffic light a few yards is a railway crossing because there is a very busy train track that goes beside the Seminary and of course the apartment complex. (Some living there, may insist that if you didn't know better that the train goes right through their homes, because it is that close!) Just on the other side of the train tracks is a Church's Fried Chicken on the apartment complex side of the street and across the same 5-lane street from Church's is a Jack in the Box hamburger place. One day about 2 months after living there, and just when I had gotten used to Justus playing outside with his little friends without me there to watch the entire time, he walked in with a fried chicken leg. Now, at first, I wasn't alarmed, he had come home before with a cookie, or cupcake that a friend had shared with him. I just thought that one of our neighbors had gone to the chicken place and had handed him one as they were going in with it for their lunch. (This may sound strange, but if you've ever been to Seminary, you understand the community you experience living there.) As Justus began to explain the chicken leg to me, it became apparent that my theory was in error - GREATLY! You see, he had decided to hop on his bike and cross the main road in the complex, continue out to the main 5-lane street in hopes of going to Jack in the Box. Not knowing about the tunnel, he did realize, thankfully, that the street was just too busy for him to cross. So, he proceeded down the street across the railroad tracks to "the chicken place" as he knew it. He in his black, hole-in-the-knees sweat pants, shirt and old hand-me-down camouflage jacket (he was dressed to "play" outside, not go out in public) trekked right up to the place, went in and told the clerk at the register that he was hungry! Well, I am sure that upon seeing this "poor" child and hearing his plea the man had compassion on him and in so doing gave him this chicken leg, "on the house". Justus had no money. And I can only assume the man saw Justus' bike and was not alarmed that this 5-yr old was alone, but thought he was from the nearby neighborhood. Justus then situated the chicken leg into his mouth, the way a dog carries a bone, and began to pedal back furiously. ( I know this part because dreadedly there were witnesses - our neighbors who I came to find out later were related to my soon-to-be new boss on campus - Justus is now infamous sort-of) As he told me his tale with such exuberance to have been able to handle such a task so independently, I felt my blood begin to boil and my heart begin to sink and my brain begin to roll over a thousand "what if" scenarios. I wasn't angry at him, but at myself for being such an incredibly inept mother ( I only had one 5 yr old to look after and he had managed to un-nerve me beyond comprehension.) I know that I was in some state of shock, though short-lived, for I did have enough wits about me to realize that I had to handle this as swiftly as possible - to "nip it" in the wisdom of Barney Fife. I scolded him in love, but with enough harshness to make sure he knew that he could never do this to his mother ever again!!!! With tears rolling down his cheeks (proof he knew his error) he assured me he would not and he never has!
Fast-forward 10 years to Wednesday night last week. Graham wanted to sit in with the adults in stead of going to the nursery with me and Wesley. I situated him with a couple who said they wouldn't mind and left him contentedly coloring. Before I left I told the lady Graham was sitting with that if he got restless she could send him down the hall to me in the nursery. I was clearly not thinking when I told her this, because I did know in the back or at least somewhere floating around in my brain that I would have to go out to get Justus as soon as he called me to come pick him up from Baseball practice. Only a very brief time after being in the nursery with Wesley, I got Justus' call. Wesley and I left to go get him and I never gave Graham a secon thought - he was after all in with all of the adults. Well, I got Justus and he was starving and stinky (we will not be doing this again on Wednesdays by the way! He will have a new schedule!) so I proceeded to stop at Subway to get Justus' dinner. It took an unanticipated very long time and so by the time all was said and done, it was 10 minutes until time for church to be over. I had no way of contacting Richard, so I just took Justus and Wesley home to wait for Richard and Graham to come home shortly thereafter. Not very long after we walked in the door, Richard called me to see what happened to us and to let me know he had a brief meeting, but that someone was going to bring Graham home. Before I said goodbye, he, with a very sober tone said "I need to tell you something before Graham gets home. He gave us a GREAT scare tonight!" My first thought was that it was something to do with his health or an injury! But, Oh No! A familiar feeling of De ja vu swept over me as I listened with great intensity! You see, Graham had indeed become restless in the Prayer Meeting and so was sent per my instruction down the hall to me in the nursery. Only when he arrived there and could not find Mama, he did not turn around and go back to the adults. He instead went outside and began to trek toward home on major highway (speed limit 60 mph) in the dark. He did not walk along side the road, but in it and only by the GRACE of God was not struck by any vehicles. He was indeed picked up by a gentleman who asked him where he belonged and Graham told him that his dad was at the church. Again, the GRACE of God protected him as this was a good man, (in contrast to all that is out in this world that could have harmed him), known by some present in that Prayer Meeting. The man brought Graham to the church to his dad. Richard along with many others were quite shaken up, but so very thankful for how it all did turn out. We both separately and together had long talks with Graham about never doing this again. I pray it never will!
Wesley being 2 1/2 has for a while now been stretching that muscle of independence, himself. I also pray it doesn't take a "trek" of his own to test our limits! For though these exercises in independence do stretch the muscle of their wills, it most definitely weakens the muscle of my heart!
Thank you, O Lord, for Your Great hand of Protection over my precious children and for the lessons they teach me about the weakness of my own faith!