"Hold still, will you?" growled my mother as she licked her thumb and roughly scrubbed some mystery grime from the corner of my mouth. "What DID you get on yourself?"
It was something at 7-years-old that I promised myself I would never do to my children.
Of course, Wednesday afternoon saw me scraping a mystery material from my four-year-old's mouth with my own spit solvent while saying, "What in heaven's name is on your face?"
"Its name's not heaven, Mommy. It's gum dust."
And, of course, I COULD have looked before we LEFT for preschool, but between the bathroom trip, lost backpack, last minute attempt to eat an apple, and a desperate need for "hair", I somehow forgot.
And I am reminded of the old "lick and a promise" and wonder how much of my parenting is exactly this way. As we stumble through therapy and everything else, how much of the time am I remembering to really apply in my life the beliefs that I really have?
Take for instance about a week ago, the little one got an ear infection. But before we knew it was an ear infection, he cried for 36-hours STRAIGHT. This would normally evoke pity, but you see, he has separation anxiety, so occasionally, HE JUST DOES THIS (seemingly) FOR FUN! There are only so many times I can handle the howls as I bend forward, child swinging from my head like Tarzan. My back simply can no longer handle the little critter shimmying up my legs, across my body, over my shoulder, back under my arm, and then snuggling, feet tucked into the waistband of my jeans at the small of my back to keep him from falling, with his head under my chin. You think I jest. I feel like a primate from Animal Planet.
I took him to Dr. Seuss's birthday party, and he sat cross legged on the story mat, sobbing with his tall cat-in-the-hat hat shaking on his dark little head. And even though I love him to pieces, can't imagine life without him, think he's as cute as a little bug (although I'm not sure I really know of any cute bugs now), there comes a point when I simply can't do any more.
All I have is that lick and a promise.
"I'm going to give you one hug now. Just one hug. And then I'm going to sit here. And you're going to sit there like a big boy." I do my best to channel his therapist as I say this, willing Miss Stephanie vibes to wash over him.
No dice that day.
After three more tries of this (spanning an interminable 9 minutes), he ended up in my lap, much happier.
Some days, all I have energy for is a lick and a promise. Not to mention the other things that need attending to. And some of them require MAJOR attention.
And I wonder how we ever accomplish anything with just a lick and a promise. Think about the statistics, just a few random statistics:
You need to see a word about 9-16 times in explicit instruction to learn it.
You need to see a word 20-50 times in passing to learn it.
For everything negative thing you hear about yourself, you need 7 positive things to counter it.
For someone coming out of prison, studies show that the person and his family require 3-5 families to come along side them and support them to stave away a return to the old ways.
How, when we are so overwhelmed, can we possibly do what is required of us to build one another up?
And then, my friend and I were praying this morning. Now, I hadn't told her all of my prayer requests, but here she was, suddenly, in her prayer guided to pray for something I had been worried about, a real need, that I had not mentioned to her at all.
And I realized. My father in heaven has more than a lick and a promise. He has a COVENANT. And I am fully WASHED in the blood of his son. And when we give ourselves over to him, those little licks become part of a great big bath, washing away what cannot be done alone.
And so it was, on Sunday morning, listening to the once-again-wailing little son, who was vertical, but in no way awake and certainly not springing forward anywhere, that I once again wondered about this therapy stuff. But later, major sobs subsided into hiccups, and we stood in his Sunday school class, surrounded by teachers who really care for each child there. Amidst their prayers and smiles, I try again.
"I have sung with you now for three songs. I'm leaving in two more songs. You decide if you want a hug or a kiss before I go, and I'll give you the other one when I come back for you."
Minor sniffles. A few tears, but they're only leaking from one eye, so I hope that we can stave off the full melt down.
We sing. His teachers smile at him.
He decides he needs my hair instead of a kiss.
I say goodbye. He waves. There are tears streaming down his cheeks, but no audible sobs.
God has promised to take care of even the least of these. He has more than my licks. I can trust him to fully bathe my little one. And we are slowly wading through it together.