Dietrich Bonhoeffer is recorded to have said, “The prayer of the morning determines the day.”
But for most people, it’d be more accurate to substitute the word “prayer” with “crisis”. Yesterday, as we were in the final moments of getting kids (we have 4) out the door for the school bus, we decided that our youngest would wear his new slip-on style “Crocs” sandals to school. Halfway to the bus stop I realized that was a mistake the would shape my next hour or so. My youngest loves to run and his sandals (with no backs) were not allowing him to run like the wind the way he wanted to. He’d take a few schlepping steps, get frustrated, stop and cry. He’d take a few more schlepping steps, sandals scraping the ground as he tried to run and also keep them on his feet, get frustrated, stop and cry. I soon learned that the sandals weren’t the best idea. After all, shoes that are “slip-on” must also by their very nature be “slip-off”. But finally we made it to the bus stop. He had stopped crying, but was still not too keen on the sandals.
Now, I want to stop here in the story and point out a type of parenting that I call “helicopter parenting”. When any crisis arises, some parents (myself included at times) swoop in and save the day, providing the perfect solution/rescue from trouble just in the nick of time. In that vein, I leaned down to my son’s level and said, “Hudson, would you like me to go and get your sneakers for you?” Through whimpers, he quietly said, “Yes.” So I fired up the rotors of my parenting helicopter and flew home as quickly as my feet could carry me, only to see the bus coming up the street as soon as I reached our front porch. I knew instantly there’d be no way on God’s green earth that I’d make it back to the bus stop in time.
Now, I had a decision to make. Would I shut down the blades of the helicopter; the parenting helicopter I’d come so accustomed to flying, or would I go the distance and ultimately bring the sneakers to the weeper? What would you have done?
That’s what I figured.
Since going back to the bus stop would have been useless, I went to his room, grabbed his sneakers out of his closet, grabbed some socks, and climbed back into my parenting rescue copter, which looks suspiciously like a minivan. Off I drove to the elementary school parking lot, landed the rescue copter, and walked over to where I figured his bus would stop and let him out. Yep, “Plan B” was working out just fine. I’d see him get off the bus, swoop in with socks and sneakers, and fly off into the clouds until the next crisis arose.
And as I stood there for what seemed like an eternity, I thought about what other parents in their parked copters must be thinking while looking at me standing there near that bus loop, under that tree. Here was a dad who, from all indications looked quite sane and yet was standing in a bus loop holding a pair of child’s socks and sneakers. I can’t help but think that someone must have seen me standing there and thought, “Oh good Lord, that dad is so inept, he didn’t even put shoes on the kid before sending him out the door!”
So, I finally see buses start to roll in and I keep my eye out for my youngest son’s bus. There it was! Rolling in, and rolling by way too quickly to be stopping anytime soon and anywhere near me. I watched it finally roll to a stop at the opposite end of the bus loop from where I was. Undaunted and still committed to save the day, I started hoofing it down the sidewalk and into a sea of children, in the hopes to find mine or one that looks like mine. By that time, I was tempted to grab any kid wearing sandals, sit him down, take them off, and squeeze my kids shoes onto his feet. But while I was having that thought, I heard a stern, “May I help you?” But while those were the words coming from this militant mother’s mouth (volunteering as security guard), I was reading between the lines; what she was really saying was, “You don’t belong in this sea of children. I don’t like the looks of you. I don’t trust your intentions. You make me uncomfortable. You’re not supposed to be here and the fact that you’re here makes me feel and act like a mother hen. No, a mother mongoose. No, a mother bear. No, a mother dragon.” I quickly tried to explain myself, and the sandals, and the shoes, and the helicopter, but she didn’t care one bit about the sordid details. She just wanted me to march my trespassing heiney to the front office, go through the retinal and rectal scan like every other visitor has to, and hope to gain entrance into this fortress of security. So I did.
Did I mention that at this point I’m still a grown man carrying a child’s socks and shoes? So, I get to the office, punch my name into the computer, sign some legal documents that I think contractually obligate me to surrender my soul to gain entrance, wait for my picture badge sticker to print out, slap it on, and head toward my son’s classroom.
And then came the payoff. I walked through the door of my son’s classroom, he looked up from his morning work, and……wait for it…….smiled.
There it was. There was the sole reason any of us parents do anything. All that work, that running, that dragonfighting, all for that one moment when my son looked up at me with eyes that said, “I recognize the lengths you have gone through to bring me my socks and shoes. I esteem you highly and vow from this moment on to never take you for granted, always to appreciate and respect the position of loving authority you hold in my life, and to constantly remind you of just how wonderful I think you truly are.” But it sounded more like “Hi Dad.”
With pride in my heart, joy on my face, and I think maybe my chest puffed out a little, I took off those dastardly sandals and replaced them with soft warm socks, and lace up sneakers, double-tied. Now my son could face the day not having to schlep.
Fast forward 24 hours to this morning. We’re at the bus stop (sneakers on this time), and my two youngest are playing tag while waiting for the bus. Just as I heard the roar of the bus engine around the corner, I look down just in time to see my son trip and fall on the asphalt street. Immediate tears and crying ensue. I think to myself, “Oh good Lord, can I have a normal morning, please?!?” The answer clearly being “Nope”, I picked him up, tried to convince him all was well and quickly realized he wasn’t buying it. So, while all the other children climbed aboard the school bus, my youngest and I begin the walk home, with one out of four knees bloodied and needing a band-aid. After peroxide and some attention from mom, he seemed no worse for wear. So we got in the minivan once again, put it on auto-pilot from the day before, and enjoyed a nice ride to his school.
I’m not saying that as parents we’re supposed to save our kids everytime they fall, forget, or fail. In fact, I’d contend that there are definitely times when the good ‘ol “you made your bed, now lie in it” method is completely appropriate. But at least for now and in instances like these, I’m enjoying building that foundation of trust with my youngest son. So that in the future when he needs to stand on his own, he’ll know he can do so with the love and support of his parents.