“Smell my hand…”
Never a good idea when offered by a boy. But I did … hesitantly.
“Oh my word!” I reeled back, wishing I could un-smell whatever I had just smelled. “Ohhhhhh… sick!… Ohhhhh-ewww!!!”
Muffled laughter preceded an, “I know. It’s gross, isn’t it.”
“Yes it’s gross!! What is that?”
“I don’t know..”
He had been playing outside. It could have been anything – a dirty dog, worms or worse. Quite frankly, I didn’t want to go there.
“Well, you can get right up and go wash your hands.”
And, without so much as a peep, he hopped up from the couch, went to the bathroom, washed his hands, then came and sat beside me again.
“Now smell it,” he offered.
Which again, I did. This time freely, without worry or concern that something horrible would greet me.
I was wrong.
For the second time, a smell to end all smells crossed every one of my nasal cilia. “Did you use soap?!”
“Washing your hands involves SOAP!” Still reeling, I push him off the couch, “Go wash them again. And this time use more than water.”
“What?! I have to wash my hands again?! I already did it.” He stomps to the bathroom.
“Use soap!” I bark.
“It’s not fair,” he muttered. “Why do parents always get to be the boss. It’s NOT FAIR.”
I hear the water. I hear muffled mumbling. Then the six-year-old returns. “Here,” he puts his hand in my face again. “Smell.”
I’m scared; but I do. This time, it smelled good – like soap. “That’s so much better. See?” And I make him smell.
“Now your hand is clean,” I tell him. He laughs and snuggles next to me as he remembers aloud all the things that could have made his hand smell so bad. And I sink into a moment of bliss, grateful to have in my house a little kid who still likes me, who still listens to me, who still does what I ask with only minimal push-back.
“I asked you to wash your hands because I love you. Who knows what owned that incredibly disgusting smell that stuck to your fingers. I wanted your hand to be clean so that it wouldn’t go anywhere else. So that if you happened to put your hand in your mouth, or touch food that would be in your mouth, or itch your eye, or whatever else … you wouldn’t get sick. It’s because I love you that I ask you to do things you might not want to do. Not to exercise my right to boss, but because I love you.”
I’m not sure he was listening. I’m not even sure I was listening. But it’s true. It’s the “so life will go well with you” aspect of parenting.
I have the one-sided conversation often with my oldest. One-sided because he has, as almost every teen does, decided that he knows best. It must be a rite of passage to dismiss every admonition coming from a parent’s mouth in preference to do things “my way” because “you don’t know!” But, despite a parent wanting to throw in the towel, we don’t, we can’t. We stick to our guns. We weather the stubborn storms and stay the course of wise re-direction because … well, because we love them.
And my mind is drawn God’s overwhelming love. Love for my kids. Love for me. Love that in it’s divinity shared the wisdom in limitations and directives. Laws, as He called them, set forth, “so that it may go well with (us).”
So-it-may-go-well-for-you love is the wind that fills my hand-washing, direction-giving, sticking-to-boundaries sail. It’s the love that keeps me checking ratings, encouraging excellence, enduring stubborn, pointing in the right direction, celebrating victories, and crying alongside defeats. Love that looks at the big picture and runs from temptations to throw in the towel. Love – even when it doesn’t feel like love to them. Love – even when it feels like drudgery to me.
Love – “so that it might go well” for them. I’m grateful for the same type of love so freely bestowed upon me, and all my similarly stubborn ways.
Thanks for walking the road with me.
Keep his decrees and commands, which I am giving you today, so that it may go well with you and your children after you and that you may live long in the land the Lord your God gives you for all time. (Deuteronomy 4:40)