life in the prairie…

So a few days ago our family had the joy of celebrating our eldest’s 5th birthday.  Since my wife and I have been trying to be responsible adults recently, we have been limiting our spending and trying to increase our debt pay down rate.  After having successfully paid off our credit cards we are now working on the loan on our minivan (thank you very much, Dave Ramsey).   Anyway, we were wondering what to do for our eldest on his birthday.  We wanted to avoid the costs associated with throwing a big party and were not really wanting to accumulate tons more stuff to trip over in our home. 

A while back I determined that the perfect birthday treat would be to go bowling at an actual bowling alley.  He loves “playing bowling” on Wii whenever we go to my moms. Last year he got a couple home bowling sets, which we combined and put to good use in our basement.  One of his favorite videos is a Curious George DVD with an episode about bowling.  And I recalled the wonder in his eyes when he saw the bowling lanes at Pinstripes earlier this year (Pinstripes is an in door lawn bowling and bowling establishment…we attended my friend Joe’s birthday party in the lawn bowling section, much to my eldest’s disappointment).

We invited a few local friends and family to join us on this inaugural bowling outing, but due to the first snowfall of the year (a birthday treat in and of itself) it ended up being just our household.   We had a great time! Our 3 yr. old did something I thought impossible.  On one of his turns he actually rolled the ball so slowly that it stopped and then began to roll backwards.  The boys thoroughly enjoyed themselves.  Our eldest bowled a respectable 95 (not bad for a first time bowler…and one point better than my wife I might add).

So, here we are half a week after our mountain high bowling excursion and every day since then I have heard a soft, sweet, but insistent request to go bowling again.  He’ll say, “I want to go bowling.”  To which I’ll say something like, “No, it’s not time to go bowling, little man.  It’s time to clean up our toys, and then it’s lunch time, and then it’s time to take a rest.”  To which his reply is something like. “Ok…It’s time to clean up, and eat lunch and take a rest and then we go bowling.”  He really is quite persistent.

Every time he asks (or insists) that we go bowling it breaks my heart.  I would love to just drop everything and go bowling whenever he asks.  But it is practically not an opption schedule wise.  Not to mention it would end up nickel and diming our budget to debt (sorry, I like puns).   

As I look to the future I’m sure that there will be other “bowling outings” through the years; things that we can splurge on but can’t do every day.  These exciting mountain top occasions are great, but unfortunately most of life is lived in “the prairie.”  It is easy to feel like I am letting him down every time I say no to “playing bowling.”  However, I know that apart from the mountain high times my wife and I have instilled in him plenty of reasons to know we love him.  

He’s experienced that love through the 5 plus years of his life we have spent caring for him day and night.   It’s weighed out in the tens of thousands of pounds of diapers (and pull-ups) we’ve changed.   This love  has grown out of all of the funny faces we’ve made at each other…and the meals we’ve shared…and the games we’ve played…and bath times antics over the years.  He knows it from the worn and torn pages of the books we’ve read countless times.  It’s the product of all the prayers we’ve said together and all the songs we’ve sung before going to bed.   It is reinforced in our daily lives lived in “the prairie.”   And despite our shortcomings as parents or our limitations as responsible adults, he knows we love him even when we don’t go bowling.   On second thought, it is not all that unfortunate that our son’s knowledge of our love for him isn’t based solely on mountaintop experiences. 

Life in the prairie might not always be as fun and exciting (although it certainly can be a lot of fun), but when you come down off the mountain there is little better than taking a warm bubble bath and putting on  some Spiderman PJs, to cuddle up with mom or dad and read a few books before going to bed.  May God bless us with peace, joy and love no matter what our elevation in life.

Deep recall

I have been blessed with a wonderful family.  My wife and I celebrated 10 yrs of marriage this past summer.  In just a few days our eldest will turn 5.  Our middle (3yrs old) insists he wants to be the oldest and biggest and first and strongest…when it comes to pretty much everything.  Our youngest is just starting to get into the mix of it all.

So, our eldest is the first to do most stuff (as is I suppose the expected way of things).  Since he was 2 our eldest has been able to spell his name (a feat many adults have trouble with as his name is not too common).  We actually made up a cheer that we would chant in the car in order to help him learn how to spell his name.  I can still hear every time he spells his name that he is spelling it in rhythm with the cheer.

It reminds me of an experience in spelling I had as a young lad.  I remember learning a song as a child called I am a C-H-R-I-S-T-I-A-N.  The last line of the song says, “And I will L-I-V-E-  E-T-E-R-N-A-L-L-Y.”  Well the result was that as I grew up I always had to quickly sing the last line of that song to myself if I was trying to spell the word “eternally.”  Like my son and his name cheer I could not think of the word outside of the context in which it was learned.  I am calling this kind of association a “deep recall.” While I am no longer bound to that sing-songy mental spellcheck, I do get transported back to childhood chapels every time I think of that song.

So this begs the question in my mind:  What kinds of deep recalls are my wife and I instilling in the minds of our children?  What automatic associations are they going to have with certain words…with certain practices…with certain places?  Will they like being in Christian community…singing, reading, praying, etc?  What kind of humor are we encouraging or supporting?  What kinds of behaviors are they picking up from us?

Our children are very different and yet it seems to me that much of who each one is becoming is just a variation or magnification of who we are around them.  They are learning who to be from us for better or worse, regardless of our intentions.  They are our apprentices in life and are looking to us as masters in how to live.   When I realize this I pray that my practice of living is worth learning from and it makes me want to change those things in me that I know are not worth their study in living.  Whether with our children or whoever is looking to us as examples in life may God guide us all and give us strength through His Word, so that we may do this life training well.