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How Much The Children Cost

Window screens bent in and the latches lost in the Clivia below . . . an escape route.

The balusters jostled loose on the outdoor handrails . . . weeks of sliding down the banister.

A half-dollar-sized gouge in the drywall . . . the beginnings of a tunnel from bedroom to bath.

A hairline crack across the porcelain pedestal sink . . . a monkey-branch? a climbing step? How did that come to be?

A curl in the laminate, peeled back a great length down the kitchen cabinet . . . an enticing experiment.

A watermelon-sized balloon hooked up to the faucet in the bathroom sink with the water left on . . . an explosive thrill.

Chunks of dried mud stuck 14 feet up the stucco on the back apartment building . . . target practice.

The slashes in the armrests of two new sofa chairs . . . a table for a cutting craft.

The green fruit picked from the navel orange tree long before their time . . . harvesting lessons.

A chunk of plastic broken off the shroud of the lamp's socket . . . gymnastics and climbing.

An entire bottle of bubble bath used on the first opening . . . glee at the abundance.

Holes poked into the brittle slats on the A.C.'s condenser . . . a fascinating phenomenon.

Buckets of dirt emptied into the 2,000 galloon above-ground pool . . . a rich mud stew.

The shelves and doors taken off the play kitchen . . . a lesson in construction.

The seams ripped and worn on the edges of the couch and its cushions . . . the floor is lava.

A letter "A" carved into the hallway door trim . . . practice in printing?

A broken closet window . . . a butt rest while perched atop the dresser to reach the tubs on the top shelf. (Okay, that was me.)

Wood-finish stains on the living room rug . . . the air conditioning unit jostled and its drain hose accidentally disconnected. (Yes, that was me too.)

The bathroom towel rod yanked off . . . an over-zealous towel grab from the shower. (It happens.)

The shower drain clogged . . . long luscious beautiful hair. (Can't help it.)

A car's broken axel in Mexico . . . youthful driving. (That was a long time ago.)

The freezer door left open in my parents' garage . . . popsicles. (That might not have been me and if it was, that door never shut well anyways.)

Where does any of this lead?

If I have done an equal number of destructive and foolish things as my children have done, then I have no right to complain about them? And who is keeping score? Maybe I will hear the score from my children when they are grown.

The tears after the dressing-down, the household strain when operating from a believed scarcity, the crushed spirits after the lecture, the discomfort from lack of planning, the numerous unknown hurts brought about when I tried to survive the best way I knew how . . . 

When added up does it all cancel each other out? An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth? The world's way, the natural way, the graceless way?

The world decides how much to give or begrudge based on what others give or begrudge us. But Jesus said to give as if we loved everyone the same, whether they've ripped holes in my screens or not.

"If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect." (Matthew 5:46-48 NIV) 

Or as the Message says, "Live generously and graciously towards others, the way God lives towards you." Not keeping track and not begrudging them because they are children who break things. Not in a nagging-until-I-explode sort of way or in a neglectful-of-teaching-stewardship sort of way. But like a wealthy man spilling his pennies to the poor. Like someone with a PhD allowing his students to work out the problems before walking them to the answers. Or like Jesus, without the need to assert his dominance or superiority, taking off his outer robe and stooping to wash feet. 

This is no abandonment of dignity or proof of failure. This is dirt being scrubbed off feet that have come to gather at my table. And the job falls to me because I am their mother. I can either love them as Christ loves me or pass along the sin of loving only as they love me.


Patty said…
Reminds me of what I used to say to myself when something was broken (or destroyed unwittingly...) - "people are more important than things". Trying to put it in perspective is hard "in the moment". I love your writing!

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