It was 4:10PM on a Wednesday afternoon. Ayanna, Jordan and I had only been home for 20 minutes. I had nearly an hour and 30 minutes to spare before taking the kids to swimming lessons. Within that short period, I desperately needed to prepare dinner, help Ayanna with her homework, put a load of clothes in the wash, tidy up the living room, clean the bathroom and review my teaching points for the evening’s young adult life group. Suddenly with a bolt of Thor’s lightning, Moses came down from heaven, stepped into my kitchen and rested his staff. (I can only assume that the Israelites were taking their precious time and his arms were tired of holding the staff in the air.) The waters of the Red Sea were released and began to consume my house. For the tenth time this week, Ayanna burst into tears and begin whining about the events of her day. First, it was about me not allowing her to have a longer break before starting her homework. Then it was the epic complaint of “starvation” and how she just needed just one more snack before dinner. Jordan, on the other hand, continued his newfound career as a snack mixologist. He had taken his snack collection of goldfish, raisins, yogurt, and Capri Sun and mixed them together for “a swim” on my kitchen table. He had also managed to strip down to only his underwear, pour out all the hand soap over the bathroom counter and leave a trail of poop all over the toilet seat and tiled floor.
My husband, Jelani, was at work and would not be home until after 7. My mom, dad and sister resided ten to eleven hours away in the states of Georgia and South Carolina. My mother in law was probably running errands and packing for her new move. There was no one available to rescue me from this distress of my eight-year old’s continual emotional roller coaster and my three-year old’s tornadoes of poop, bubbles, and mixed food.
With Ayanna crying a river, this time over cleaning her room, and Paw Patrol under weared Jordan screaming out the lyrics to his version of Cool It Now by New Edition, I threw my hands in the air and yelled, “CAN YOU GUYS JUST …. YOU ARE ….… I CAN’T…..”
Instantaneously, it felt like God cracked the sky, pushed pause on my life remote and for three fourths of a millisecond everything sort of stood still. In a cloud of smoke and glittery sprinkled fairy dust (lol), a vision of a big, shipping box with bold and capitalized red lettering stating “HANDLE WITH CARE” appeared before me.
The crying resumed and the screaming/singing of “I’m going to lose control” and “ooooohhhh watch it” continued. The vision of the box disappeared.
I, fresh from my epiphany, washed the food seasonings from my hand and turned off the stove. I looked at my children in the calmest mid voiced tone possible, I simply stated, “I just need a moment.”
I walked to bathroom, closed, and locked both doors behind me. I put down the toilet seat cover lid and sat down. I did not really need to use the bathroom. I just needed a place to breathe and think in peace. But as expected, my children followed me and the sound of their bare feet running down the hallway seeped under the bathroom door seal.
Knock. Knock. Knock.
I purposely did not respond. I hoped they would get the hint.
Knock. Knock. Knock. Knock. Knock. Knock. Knock. Knock. Knock
“I’m using the bathroom. Give you guys just give me a moment!”
Jordan inquired, “Can we come in?”
I responded, “NO!! I’ll be out in a minute.”
Ayanna asked, “But why can’t we come in?”
I replied, “Because, I would like to use the bathroom in peace. Please just give me a moment.”
Jordan asked, “Are you sure you have to use the bathroom?”
Ayanna continued, “Do you have to pee or poop?”
Annoyed and irritated, I loudly responded “That’s none of your business!!! Can you guys just PLEASE give me a moment?”
Ayanna said, “Jordan, mommy sounds stressed out. Maybe she had a bad day at work. She needs some relaxation. Let’s leave her alone.”
Jordan agreed, “Ok, Yanna. Let’s go watch Guava Juice on Youtube.”
And just like that, Jordan and Ayanna’s secret service left their guard post of the bathroom door and hurried in the opposite direction.
FINALLY! I could breathe (in the stench of Jordan’s smeared poop) and think in peace.
Hoping to regain a moment of sanity, I uncomfortably reclined my body. With my head leaned back onto the toilet tank cover and my feet propped onto Jordan’s stepping stool, I began to reflect on the vision of this mysterious box and its possible contents. In the shipping world, I imagined that this box could have contained antique China, a mirror, a delicate piece of glass furniture, jewelry, or any sort of fragile item. The contents were probably tightly bubble wrapped, packaged in Styrofoam or plastic casing or surrounded by those foamy popcorn shipping thingies. The item could have originated from overseas or the Amazon warehouse base in Seattle. Regardless of its origin or contents, this box had a destination. How the box was handled during its packing, shipping, and delivery process, would determine the state in which the contents would arrive to its destination. Throwing, dropping, kicking and any careless mishandling of the box could ultimately damage the box’s contents and yield an insufficient product.
The more I thought about the box, the more evident it became that God was trying to tell me something. The vision of this box was His way of saying to me, “Hey Margaret! Before you complete the rest of that sentence, yell at the top of your lungs, or say or do something that you might regret…remember this, HANDLE WITH CARE.”
In my world, this box and its contents represented my children. They are the fragile contents composed of invaluable material. They each have a unique and individualized God-ordained purpose and destiny awaiting them. I, along with the partnership of my husband, are the packers, shippers, and deliverers. God was reminding me that not only am I, as their mother, responsible for the outward provision, covering and protection of my children, but I am even more responsible for the health, security, and productivity of their inner contents. The way in which I handle them – my responses, my tone of my voice, my demeanor towards them, my attentiveness to their needs, the elements in which I expose them to, my actions on a whole– would affect how they grow up, perceive and adapt to their surroundings. I undeniably play an unprecedented role in the manner into which they are delivered into adulthood. They can either arrive in shambles, broken into pieces and in a state of disarray. Or they could arrive in good standing and ready to serve a purpose greater than themselves.
Although my children are merely three and eight years of age and our journey as family has really just begun, parenting is probably one of the hardest task I have ever had! Anyone who says that parenting is easy……has imaginary kids..….for real!!! The vision of the box marked “HANDLE WITH CARE” was a reminder that I must be a safe and sound molding place for my children. The handling of the box, or my children in this case, never requires me to be perfect. But to rather that I AM CAREFUL, conscientious and thorough in my dealings with them. Ayanna and Jordan need me to be an active listener, to be attentive, to empathize with them, to be fair, chastise, correct, guide, acknowledge, encourage and applaud them.
For now, my husband and I are everything to our children. We shape the world as they know it. They depend on us for their very survival. But in all honesty, I think we need them way more than they need us. For a world void of emotional breakdowns, whiny eight-year-old complaints of after school starvation, poop stains and a three-year-old’s rendition of Cool It Now is simply no world at all:)
Knock. Knock. Knock.
Ayanna asked, “Mom, are you done, yet?”
I responded, “Almost, Ayanna. Almost.”
Ayanna replied, “Well can you hurry up because I need help with putting all of my 100 pages of school papers back into my notebook. They need to be in chronological order. And Jordan left his dirty underwear in the family room and is running around the house naked. I can also still smell his stinky poop!”
I replied, “I’m coming, Ayanna.”
I turned on the tub water to run a bath for Jordan. Picked up the Clorox spray and wipes to combat the trail of poop. I unlocked both bathroom doors and headed down the hallway into the Red Sea.
I whispered quietly to the Lord, “So, God, on my days like this, as I’m sure there are lots more ahead, grant me the wisdom and grace to handle Ayanna and Jordan with the utmost care. “