I got lost. Four little numbers and a stack of letters made up an address for a lacrosse field I'd never heard of, and despite a confident/arrogant GPS, my equally directionally challenged navigator and I, got sidetracked. I must admit, the annoying halo that my left cornea casts across everything it encounters is distracting, but today even that would have been a stretch to assign as the scapegoat for my morning mix-up.
Finally, I reshuffled my series of turns and thankfully arrived at my original destination. As we pulled in to the parking lot I slipped into a spot with ease and realized there was not a car on sight. I quickly referred back to my phone only to discover we were early for the tournament. One day early.
In my effort to point to the silver lining, I suggested to my backseat shadows that we would know exactly how to find the field tomorrow! They weren't buying it and they were irritated.
Not a great scenario to start the trip home. The donuts I'd bribed them with 90 minutes prior were a distant memory and they were restless. As we closed in on the halfway point of our drive back, a war broke out in the backseat....over a pillow pet named Bill. Previously, Bill had been laying dormant on the middle seat with not even a sliver attention sent his way. With no warning, Bill was suddenly becoming the pawn in a heated battle behind me. Little Sis decided on a whim to use Bill as a headrest and her brother immediately objected.
With my octopus arms, I kept one hand on the wheel and another behind my back as I felt around for the stuffed animal hoping to ward off the impending doom. No luck and I began to unleash my next weapon of choice....the take-away trick. But my experienced negotiator in the backseat was skilled in deflecting my tactics. To every threat I unleashed he professed his lack of concern or interest as if he was holding up a shield and my words were ricocheting off of the ceiling of the car. He was holding Bill and he was not giving up easily despite his sisters' pleas to let her lean her head on his plush belly. All the while my tween sidekick in the front seat was lost in her music with earbuds securely tucked in her ears.
As the battle raged on to no resolve, I pulled over to the side of the road. (the dreaded fear that would wash over most kids in this moment made no difference to my kids) I reevaluated my previous approach and decided to pull out a few more threats. Still no success. I had to get physical.
These moments are always so surprising to me....how could we have been happily enjoying donuts and milk less than two hours prior and now be pulling into a random dentist office parking lot raging at my son over a stuffed animal he refused to hand over to his little sister?
I was praying for guidance and counting to ten thousand as I shifted the car into park and opened my car door. Trying to stay above the fray, my tween was begging to 'just go!'. She had no interest in Bill or the standoff in the backseat.
As I walked around to Ethan's side of the car I had no idea what I would do next...but I was praying. I opened the door and leaned in and unbuckled his seatbelt and got him out of the car. We were the only car in the parking lot and there was a huge walnut tree at one end of the lot. I'm not sure where it came from, but I told him that we were not leaving until he could run from the car to the walnut tree and back in under 10 seconds.
He moped to the tree and stood under the canopy of falling leaves and nuts and wouldn't budge. My stern warnings to 'get running' fell upon deaf ears and he stood still with his feet planted, lobbing walnuts across the blacktop. We were at an impasse and I didn't have a plan B. Just to remind me that she was there, my front seat co-pilot opened her door to let me know she thought this was one of my less than effective parenting techniques. "He's not going to run, this is stupid, let's just go home!" she pleaded.
All the while the walnuts kept rolling my way.
I was beginning to doubt my sanity and thought maybe the nuts my kid was flinging into the air were a subtle signal from God that He too thought I was nuts.
Just then, the entire mood of the moment changed thanks to my youngest kiddo. After watching this unfold from her vantage point in the backseat (probably cuddling up to Bill!) she opted to join the craziness and ran around the car in her sundress and sandals. "Mom, I want to run! Time me!" she begged as she ran across the parking lot. With Ethan still immobile at the base of the tree, I figured why not and the running began. She ran back and forth and up and down. She got faster and faster as I yelled out her times like a track coach. As she smiled and ran, laughed and squealed, Ethan inched out from under the tree and his competitive spirit took over. Before I knew it, I was calling out splits for their sprints as they raced across the yellow lines that subdivided the slab of asphalt. As they ran a sense of appreciation swept over me. I was thankful for my sweet Libby who changed the course of the afternoon with her innocent desire to join in what she viewed as fun. I was beyond frustrated and in the moment, her fresh perspective was heaven sent.
God reminds us that His ways are not our ways. His viewpoint is much different and if I'd failed to slow down and seek His face in the midst of the chaos, I would never have been gifted with the sweet outcome of watching two siblings racing in the Fall sun at a random office building parking lot. Gifts come in all shapes and sizes and only when we slow down to see the beauty of the wrapping paper can we truly understand the value of the present.
After fifteen minutes of solid physical exertion, both kiddos crawled into the backseat and got buckled in. As I pulled back into traffic I overheard Libby saying to Ethan, "Here, you can have Bill, I don't want him, he has your slobber on him anyway."