Though Hannah is now five years old, I still put a bib on her for especially messy meals, like soups and anything involving tomato sauce. She doesn't seem to be able to keep her mind on menial tasks like keeping her head over her plate and not waving her fork wildly in the air while she talks. Last night at dinner she finally seemed to grasp the demeaning significance of the bib around her neck. "I don't need a bib!" she declared, "I'm five!" And with that, she jerked the bib from her neck with one hand and threw it to the floor.
I was about to reprimand her for the rude manner of her protest when Toby looked sternly at me and spoke up. "I five!" He declared, then grasped his bib, yanked it off and flung it to the floor. I tried a moment to keep my face stern, but the mischievous twinkle in his eyes overpowered me, and we all laughed together.
A few nights ago I was dismayed to find a collection of Hannah's fairy band-aids stuck all over her bed's headboard. I scolded her and showed her how they damaged the finish slightly as I pulled them off. Tears welled up in her eyes. "But, Mommy," she pleaded, "I can't throw them away. They're too pretty!" Again, I found myself laughing when I had been disciplining. We settled on collecting the pretty fairy band-aids on a special paper, instead of the headboard.
There is such a fine line between raising kids with discipline and with fun, a swing too far in either direction can be disastrous. I am thankful that my kids continually force the fun out of me.
Tonight, once again, Naomi clunked down the stairs from her bed. Thud, clunk, thud, clunk, trying not to bend her joints as she came. "What's the matter, honey?" I asked.
"Mommy, my ankles really hurt again," she said, "especially my left one." I had her rate the pain and she watched as I recorded it in the journal we are keeping to show the rheumatologist when we can finally go see him in May (two months from now!). I gave her a hug and a kiss and a pep talk about how sleep will help. She started back, but stood a moment looking up at the long staircase between her and her bed. Then she started, slowly and awkwardly, favoring the left leg. Halfway up she reached her right leg up two stairs, gave a mighty tug on the railing and heaved herself up, then did the same with her left.
"What are you doing, Naomi?" I asked.
"I'm trying to get up the stairs without having to take so many steps!" she replied with determination in her voice.
For a moment I felt even more sad, but then I laughed. "Well, you look ridiculous!" I teased. And, just as I had hoped, Naomi laughed too. I winked at her, and she knew my joke was in love. Sometimes the best thing you can do for someone in pain, after you've given them sympathy, is to help them see the lighter side. Laughter truly heals. My kids have given me so much laughter, I want to try to give it back to them.