Monday, January 26, 2009

A Six Year Old and a Smart Bomb

As we sit at the two-top table in Chick-fil-a, we are not alone. Munching on his mayonnaise-laden chicken strip is my Payton, celebrating his sixth birthday with dad. Beside him, all around, in my pocket and in my head are the voices of those who want and need my attention. They are calling right now. I can't answer. I need this bit of my day to remind you and me of what we already know, what the farmer knows; the wisdom of the athlete, the artist. All tell us to make small deposits, seemingly insignificant, in something beyond ourselves that has not yet taken shape. Yesterday, that's the voice that won the contest – the voice I finally listened to at Chick-fil-a that told me to waste time with my child. It wasn't the first time that voice had spoken, though.

About a decade earlier I was doing something "important" at grad school,commuting to Orlando twice a week. As I drove toward another degree, Kimberly and I were raising two children, a boy and a girl and welcoming the third into our home. I had been fairly hands-on with Will, now 15 (then 6) and was enjoying his new stage of post-toddler independence as a pretext for making more time to study. Kimberly's home-work was just as strenuous and even more important, focused on the heart and heritage of our home. Wisely, one day she confronted me over the seemingly benign distance I had allowed between my firstborn and me: "You know, Bill," she began calmly, "Your son Will is a really cool kid. You should get to know him."

Have you ever heard of a smart bomb? A smart bomb is a precision-guided munition. With surgical accuracy, a smart bomb hits and destroys precisely what is targeted, no more. Kimberly's rebuke was like a smart bomb in my heart, aimed at my selfish inwardness. Conquered, my broken heart found new resolve to not let Will's childhood escape my notice. Last night I enjoyed the spoils of victory, sitting at the dining room table for an hour with Will and Madison (13) for a laugh-at-stupid-videos session initiated by them. A great waste of time. Smart bombs break our souls free from the dungeons of self-importance and feigned efficiency; a wife's wise reproof can turn us from the bondage of self-imposed routine into the "wasted" activity of liberated play with a six year old.

Now at the table with the other six year old, I am flooded with the memory of my previous indifference and the effect of the smart bomb. I am enjoying this interaction: Payton putting mayo on his chicken strips; Payton offering to share his waffle fries; trying to negotiate six inches of softswirl ice cream; lecturing dad on ethics ("cops can't get busted" / "ice cream has no laws"). What if I had missed this opportunity? Thank God for the wisdom of a wife who knows how to arm and aim a smart bomb. Thank God for this moment in which the important is not evident and the "waste" of time becomes the seed of a fruitful, future relationship.


S Himes said...

It's even more of a "smart" bomb when it's your children who point things like this out.

I'm blessed that I too can ignore those "other" voices and interact with 3 of my children individually and sometimes together and "waste" my time on them!

Anonymous said...

Bill, you don't post nearly enough but when you do, it's profound and wise. Thanks for taking time out of your busy days to share with us.