Slowing down to discover the heart of your child
Mark Twain, Thomas Edison, Albus Dumbledore, Bruce Wayne, the Dalai Lama, Waddles the Pig, Jesus, and Dilgo Khyentse, a Buddhist poet. Words of all these men (or animals) are on the bedroom wall of my 11 year old son. I honestly didn’t realize he had quotes of these wise ones penciled on post-it notes until I checked his room this morning to confirm he had finished yesterday’s chores. On this occasion, by God’s grace, my heart was proportionately balanced to see past the overflowing drawers, overlook the half eaten chocolate bunny, and (again by God’s grace) to not mind having to brush crumbs off the bottom of my bare feet - thank goodness I didn’t step on a lego! Credit to Christ, instead of scoffing I actually smiled looking around at all the relics he values and knelt down to pick up my heart that had melted to the floor. I absolutely adore this boy. He is hands down the most kind person I have ever known. And yes, he did somewhat clean his room… it’s a bit better than it was!
Sometimes we need to lower our standards and enjoy the grubbiness and grit of life.
Sometimes we need to raise our standards and believe deeply our kids can succeed.
Sometimes we need to throw everything out the window and just love them.
I notice sitting on his make-shift dresser, Chore List #7: Bedroom
Pick up toys and put them where they belong
Pick up clothes: fold clean ones and put dirty ones away
Make beds neatly
Clean off dressers and make it neat
Wipe down the dressers
Clean the mirrors with Windex and paper towels
Sweep or vacuum the floors
Only remnants of check marks from previous dreaded cleaning days were visible… nothing marked off yesterday. Not one line. Hmm. (I actually can get the kids to clean the house and do a really good job, but that’s another day’s blog) Today is about finding sparks of joy in the midst of the mess. It’s about slowing down long enough to discover the heart of a child.
Noah lives in the breakfast nook of our home. He doesn’t really have to, but it’s what he wants. He came up with the idea of turning the tiny space into his own room and somethings are worth letting go of so you can create joy for someone else. I don’t particularly like having the doorway to natural light in my cute kitchen blocked by a sailcloth curtain branding the letters N-O-A-H in green painters tape; but after a while even what you don’t like (lizards, grow-a-frogs, cheap metal loft beds, lost little breakfast nooks) become endearing when your babies love them.
I look around his room and see the masterpiece of his handiwork. His ink-stained fingers that try to catch up with his brain. Models half finished, broken from a little brother or friends and yet always forgiven, rockets ready to launch if only his parents would get him some engines, a homemade Ghost Busters proton pack, self discovered origami and a Chinese lantern, elfish language from Lord of the Rings etched into clay, Grandaddy’s briefcase turned board game box entitled, ‘Escape the Maze’.
I see relics unworthy for the give away box, yet whose worth is priceless to him. A tiny porcelain box in the shape of Noah’s arc, a shark suspended in formaldehyde, a mason jar of pond water, a sleeping bag christmas ornament that stays out year round, a lizard magnet his parents brought him from a trip years ago, a piece of plywood broken from a martial arts belt test, glass frogs from Grammy. There’s a tiny stuffed taco his sister sewed as a dog toy for his puppy, chewed up stuffed animals missing their eyes and ears after that puppy claims them as his own. His sister’s polkadot gloves she gave him so he could still play games on the old iPhone and not cut his fingers from the cracked glass. How they may have looked never phased him, he only was thankful for the gift.
I see catalysts for his never stopping mind. An organic chemistry molecule set from his aunt, a 30 year old microscope from Pa, a poster of the periodic table, “Science - A Visual Encyclopedia” stuffed under his pillow for nightly reading. Test tubes, chemicals, slides, and a keyboard. Medals for math and reading. A gift card to Barnes and Noble rightly wedged between his mattress and bed frame - a proper place to keep his gold. Mostly I scan the piles and piles of books, none which I would choose to read. The Martian, Elements, Molecules, Minecraft Hacks, An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth, How Science Works, Guinness Word Records 2015 Gamer’s Edition. Oh, and the Bible - I’ll choose that one!
I looked around his room and it was the mess that caught my attention as the bait, but it’s the scribbled quotes on post-it notes that hooked me. All the stuff is just outpourings of what is growing in his heart and in his mind. I praise God that He holds him and molds him. I read the quotes and know that kindness over wisdom has captured his young heart and the compassion he holds and gives is sincere and pure.
11 post-its line the wall over his desk: (That I believe ALL came from one of his 6th grade teachers at Brown Intermediate School… THANK YOU, MR. B!)*
(side note: for those that are questioning the use of wisdom from unscriptural sources such as Buddhist poets or monks, Harry Potter, Batman, scientists, and atheists… it’s ok. Go ahead and question. In our family, we hope our kids are exposed to those and more, and still choose Christ.)
More notes are discovered under books, and propped by pillows.
- Look in the mirror: Real Christians are not perfect; Real Christians know perfect (which is Jesus).
- You are too young to make a difference - is a lie, don’t listen to that voice.
- A drawing of Christian from Pilgrim’s Progress - hunched over from his burden, reading his truth, his long journey ahead of him. (Pilgrim’s Progress is our book, just the two of us, me and Noah, we are reading it for the second time now).
And finally his prayer, Psalm 4, the blessing we say over him each night. Just for Noah. Just from God. It speaks to his soul and whispers truth into his heart.
May the Lord answer you when you pray, Noah.
May He relieve you when you’re in distress.
May He lift up the light of His countenance upon you and put gladness in your heart, exceeding all earthly joy.
May the Lord establish you as a godly man who trusts in Him.
May the Lord make you dwell in safety.
And when you lie down, may you sleep in peace.
I believe there is power in prayer and I do not believe prayer is a formula, fortune cookie, or genie bottle. I pray in friendship with God and at times, in grace, see fruit from persistent prayer. When Noah was first born I began to pray that he would be like the ancient Noah, a man whose faith led him to take action. Noah did not care what people thought about him and out of his radical faith, was obedient to what God asked of him, regardless if the world thought he was crazy. Interesting to see similar soul threads between my Noah and God’s.
What an honor it is to be his mama. It is an honor to love him.
My prayer is that all mamas and papas can pause and praise God for the blessings that are disguised as clutter. That we can observe with new eyes who our kids are and what they love and why. That we can taste and see the goodness that bubbles out of their yard sale bedrooms and mismatched socks. That joy can be sparked out of our mess.
That we can love them more each day for who they are and not for what we want them to be.
*I did not confirm the accuracy of these quotes, but rather copied them straight off the post-it notes. If there are errors, they most likely occurred during the transfer from the board to the note in 6th grade hand writing, and not from the teacher, Mr. B.
Photo of Noah taken by Natalie Watson several years ago.