Saturday, August 20, 2005

The First Command is No

The first commandment that you ever learn as a child is very simple.  The command is “NO!”.  You probably do not remember learning it, but your parents had to teach it to you nonetheless.  It kept you from killing your foolish self and destroying the property of your parents.

My son is just getting to the stage where he can comprehend what “no” means.  Truthfully, today was the first day I ever saw it register with him.  Let me build up to that very special moment.

Mom was away today on a girl’s only shopping trip in New Orleans.  (I am thankful that I was not invited.)  So, today was dad’s turn to baby-sit.  Basically, that means I played peek-a-boo, threw my son into the air until my back hurt, and I crawled around on the floor with him till my knees were sore.

Here’s how the “no” happened.  I was sitting on the couch finishing the seventh book in the Chronicles of Narnia series when I saw my son pull down a branch of fake heather off of a shelf.  I walked over and put it back on the shelf.  I stood there watching him.  He was smiling up at me and laughing.  I’m dad, right?  I bounce him on my knee.  I play with him.  I let him stay up past nap time.  His smile was innocent.  He had no clue that he’d done anything wrong, and he knows that dad loves him.

Then, he began to reach for the plant again.  I had to check myself from smiling.  I knew that this was going to happen, and if I didn’t want Ethan eating plastic plant, then I had to stop it.

“Ethan, no!”

I said it clearly, and as authoritatively as I knew how.  And for the first time, it worked.  His chubby hand stopped barely an inch from the tempting plant, and his little cherub-like head swiveled to look into my eyes.  I dared not smile.  He had to know that this was serious business.  

As I looked down at him, trying to be a good dad and keep a serious look, I saw that surprise was written all over his sweet face.  Surprise and hurt.  It was all I could do not to pick him up right then and there and take him away from that temptation.  His little lip trembled, and for a moment I thought he was going to cry.

Then he turned his head and looked back at the plastic plant.  The forbidden fruit was within his grasp.  His little fingers began to flex.  I knew what was coming.  I prepared for the “no” that would surely bring anger and tears.

But the hand stopped.  Actually, it hovered near a plastic leaf for a moment and then dropped to the floor.  My son turned, and then crawled over to me laughing.  I was shocked.

I picked him up and gave him a big kiss on the cheek.  I was filled with mixed emotions.  It may seem silly to you, but that was a special moment for me.  I know that at whatever level a nine month old can struggle, Ethan did.  And he hadn’t grabbed that plant.

As I held him for a brief moment, some terrible thoughts went through my mind.  One day, God willing, my son will grow up.  He will be reaching for things that he ought not touch:  A woman who is not his wife or pornography that is a click away.  Drugs will be offered to him.  He will be tempted to take things that are not his.  I will not be there to stand over him.  He will be on his own, and all he will have will be the memories of the commands I have given him.

At some point, his desire will override my “no”, which is only an echo of a ‘no’ given long ago.  A ‘no’ given to two people who had more advantages than my son.  They failed the test, and so will he.  He will touch that which he should not.  

In that brief moment I prayed that God would have mercy on my son.  That when his grasp overreached the commandment that he would turn again, and that God would have mercy.  I prayed that he will turn to his Father and find the forgiveness that I have found.

Until that day, I pray that I may be such a parent that my son may fear the Lord and love his father that he may escape some of the hurtful things that I have done.  May the commandments of my Lord keep him as a schoolmaster until the time the day dawns in his heart and the face of Christ shines brightly in his soul.


Anonymous said...

What a great son you have and an awesome father you are. Especially since you let your wife have a shopping day to herself.

Q-tip said...

The statement, "this hurts me more than it does you", has finally come to life for us new parents. Parenting is not easy, but it's an absolute necessity. I pray every day that my daughter will find the Lord at an early age. I believe this is a prayer we should all be praying, even before the conception of our children. God Bless...and good job!!!!!!