Memo to Nihil Obstat:
Hey, buddy -- you're the one who knows how to spell "Hooters."
We took our daughter to tour a preschool-cum-speech-therapy program. She understands everything. In fact she was acing the intelligence tests for children 2 - 3 years older than she was. But she has problems speaking. Consonants are tough, especially the beginning ones. Part of that's from having been raised in a government orphanage, and the other part is from having been raised in a government orphanage where everyone spoke Chinese. Chinese isn't big on consonants. That makes it a mellifluous language, BuT oNe THaT DoeSN'T TRaNSiTioN To ENGLiSH, WHeRe eVeRY oTHeR SouND iS a CoNSoNaNT. Sometimes I think conversational Chinese could be achieved by singing the right combination of lines from "Louie Louie" and "The Name Game."
But the main reason our girl's having difficulty is probably the fact that her father is a dork. When she was two, I asked her if she favored scrambled or fried eggs. I'm not kidding, "Sweety, do you favor scrambled or fried eggs?"
"His assessments," the teacher who evaluated my student-teaching stint at a local High School wrote, "are a bit over the heads of the students." Yep. Or should I say, "How perspicacious of him?"As my wife and I toured the preschool classroom, looking at the bright decorations and indestructible furniture, we came to the corner where the small class had a morning pow-wow. The teacher told us they sat in a circle and talked about letters, names, and lots of other things.
"And this is the purple egg," she said while handing me an eponymously-violet plastic easter egg. "Each child holds it in turn to talk, and when they're talking, no one can interrupt."
"Ah," I said, "I guess you use a plastic egg because a conch shell might break?"
Sure, guy. That's what the teacher needs -- to think your house looks like a boat-shaped island where kids named Piggy and Ralph chase each other with pointy sticks. Or to think that you think her classroom resembles said island. Or to think you're nuts. Or to think all three.
If I don't watch it, my daughter's biggest problem in life is going to be the consonants that spell GeeKY FaTHeR.
Jesus refers to his followers as "little children." John 13:33 (KJV). "And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven." Matthew 18:3 (KJV). "Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven." Matthew 19:14 (KJV). John and Paul, speaking in persona Christi, say it too. "My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you, I desire to be present with you now . . . " Galatians 4:19-20 (KJV). "My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous." 1 John 2:1 (KJV). Little children. Little children of God the Father.
I think about my daughter eating spaghetti. She likes spaghetti. She doesn't like it to be cut up, she wants to twirl it around her fork like I do. But her hands are too small and the fork is too heavy. So usually she ends up eating it with her hands. She likes to do this while standing on the bench in our kitchen alcove. That makes it easier to grasp a strand of pericatelli, hold it above her head, and lower it into her mouth. At the end of dinner, our daughter has turned into a giant ball of pasta sauce with a big smile.
Little children of God the Father. We're created to live in a universe where things are too complicated, the fork is too heavy, but we still have to live and we're still delighted by good things even if we're not entirely read to enjoy them as they can be enjoyed. I wonder if God sees His children as balls of pasta sauce with big smiles and is pleased because He knows they're doing the best they can with what they have and that they'll soon grow and learn and get even better at living the life He's given them. I think so. Little children of God the Father.
Of course there are times when our girl's just bad. She has this awful habit of swiping at me or her mommy when she's angry, half-hitting, half-scratching us. And she's going to have anger to deal with when she gets to the age of reason. She can throw terrible, disproportionate fits when she doesn't get her way. She's the sort who gets angry, and then gets angry about having to be angry, and then gets angry about that, until there's a thunderhead at 25,000 feet and Katy, bar the door. We'll have a time out, which won't work because she won't stay in one place or stop yelling. She'll push and swipe when we try and stay with her. So we when the tantrums get really, really bad we have a super time out in her bedroom or the bathroom. I close the door behind us, and we sit together while I read The Wanderer until she's done yelling and screaming.[*****]
By then, she's usually crying, frightened the way strong emotions will frighten someone, especially a three year old to whom even dandelions are strange and unexpected things. She regrets the bad time, and wants to be held, for everything to be all right again. That's the moment of perfect joy, tainted only by my anxious desire that her sorrow and her fear vanish forever, for us to get on with the business of being happy. So she says "sowwy," and we hug and go out to play. Soon she's laughing again, and all's right with the world, not least because I have seen how God regards me when I'm sorry for disobeying Him. Little children. Little children of God the Father.
Let's all keep trying, and let's all go to confession. It's Lent. Lent's a season of trying, a time of confession. "And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous." 1 John 2:1 (KJV). Little children. Little children of God the Father.
[**] If anybody's got a better idea, I'm all ears.