I haven’t written anything pointedly about parenting experiences in a while; I’ve only referred in passing to events with our little boy Jedd. So, where to pick up?
There are so many things:
- holiday travel (airplanes, cousins, and grandparents—oh, my!)
- new words and expressions (koala and armadillo; family snuggle; love you, Dad)
- singing (“that’s … El–mo’s … world!!”—you should hear how high he can sing)
- two poopy diapers within the first 30 minutes I was with him alone (while Karly was at quilting group) last Monday
Guess I’ll spare you the details of the last, except to say that diaper-changing has been, overall, not nearly the hassle and grossness I had expected it to be. Just as parents have been saying for centuries, when it’s your child, it’s not that bad. Sure, it stinks. Sure, it’s a little gross and a little annoying when a diaper leaks and you have to change his clothes, too. But the experience of caring for a little person in this way has, by and large, been more a pleasure than a nightmarish succession of grossnesses. (Do note that I’m the one writing this, and not Karly; she of course has changed 85% of the diapers!)
Jedd is a wonderful little guy, with developing feelings and verbosities and mostly good moods and all good health. He is a little short for his age (like Karly!) but is advanced in terms of speech. He eats almost everything he’s given and particularly likes squash, pancakes, and couscous.
Not everything is positive. He does have his naughty side, like last night when, just before I came home, he had pulled all of his books off his shelf and had refused to start picking them up when asked. Adults like to say “he’s testing you,” and I suppose there’s truth in that, but I wonder why. He knows it will please his parents if he picks the books up, so why doesn’t he like to please us all the time? Having been forewarned, I picked him up immediately when I walked in the door and talked with him seriously about this. He listened intently (probably wondering “how did you know about the books on the floor?”), and I reminded him that when either of us asks him to do something, he should do it. Then I said, “Jedd, say ‘Okay, Dad.'” And he said, “Okay, Dad” and nodded. I hoped it was his own, developing desire to be compliant that led him to say that so readily, and not merely a desire to avoid the issue.
In thinking about the book incident, we could get all philosophical or psychological and say “He’s finding his way in the world, being his own person.” Or we could get all new-age-parenty and say he’s exploring and being creative … it’s best not to draw boundaries.” Or we could get all Calvinist and say “This was a manifestation of his fallen nature” or of “original sin.”
Aside: I often check myself in the use of quote marks, because the commercial and less-schooled literary worlds over-use them. For instance, have you ever seen “Ladies’ Room” in quotes on a restroom door at a restaurant? (Are the entrants seen as sort-of ladies or as real ladies?) I use quotes around “original sin” above because the phrase is of human origin and refers to something that in my view is not a reality. It deserves attribution—to Augustine or to whomever—but it does not deserve to be presumed real.
So, back to our story. While I don’t subscribe even half-heartedly to the notion of “original sin” as advocated by Augustine or Calvin, I do surely see, even in our 1.7-year-old Jedd, that humans are not perfect by nature. He is naturally sweet, and naturally cheerful, and naturally people-sensitive (you should have seen him burst into tears when he thought I was falling off the roof recently—this was completely instinctual, natural … and could not possibly be considered a bad thing!), but he is also prone, in some way and to some degree, to sporadic manifestations of naughtiness.
I appreciate Karly’s choice of the word “naughty” instead of “bad.” It seems to frame Jedd’s negative behaviors appropriately, without leading anyone — us or him — to begin thinking of him as “bad.” He is not bad. He is good. He is a blessing. He just has a few human tendencies that need guidance, correction, discipling. These tendencies do not lump him in the category of the depraved. They merely mark him as human, with the rest of us. Part of our job as parents is to capitalize on the good things, while correcting the bad things–shaping and discipling him as he matures, so that he is later a) prone to take his own steps toward God and b) prone to do an about-face when confronted with evil.
God, help us with this sweet, good little boy. He is an easy child to raise in so many ways, but we are only adequate to this important task if You make it so.
 According to Wikipedia, “Writing against the monk Pelagius, whom he understood as teaching that man’s nature was unaffected by the Fall, or at least was only weakened in the Fall, and that he was free to follow after God apart from divine intervention, Augustine developed the doctrine of original sin and, Calvinists contend, the doctrine of total inability.