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Gift Tag: Lessons in Dignity

December 9th, 2008

We are entrenched in potty training at my house these days.  And, let me tell you:  Nothing can make both Mommy and little boy slam dance between tears and giggles quite like a little “tee tee” and “doo doo” time.  Who knew that pull-ups and their contents would become such acceptable dinner conversation topics?  Red suckers, the promise of a Tigger movie, Elmo and Thomas the Train “big boy underwear” and some irrational cheering and possible dancing — these are the tools of the potty trade!  Yes, we are all sharing in the pride of my 3 1/2 year-old’s excited “I put my ‘tee tee’ in the potty!”

Little Drummer Boy was slow to try out the “big potty,” slow to look at the “big potty,” slow to hear us even mention the “big potty.”  He was perfectly content to go on about his business until his pull-ups were completely full and leaking.  We knew that once he overcame the hurdle of just trying it, his “training phase” would be done.  He would be an accident-free expert.  That’s just how he does things.  And, that’s pretty much how it was with his “tee tee.”

“Doo doo” is another story.

LDB has always been the more modest of my two boys, especially about his “dirty britches.”  He’s also the one who is most resistant to change in his routine and way of doing things.  Those qualities have made for a longer “doo doo” training time, and one prone to accidents.  Several times over the past few weeks, Little Drummer Boy has made himself scarce when the urge hit, and Mommy’s searching has turned up toddler tears and full underwear.  He seems to have taken to heart our instruction that “doo doo is a private thing!”  So, I try to stay on the look out for a missing 3-year-old.

Last week, a “Don’t come in here, Mommy” was the tell-tale sign that another chapter in the “doo doo” chronicles was imminent.  It came just after little brother Squiggle had finished his bath–step one in the one-two punch of our nightly bath/bedtime rituals.  With Mommy and Daddy tag-teaming the process and everyone tired from the day, I’m sad to say that we are sometimes not our best selves during the bath and bed hour. This night we had “doo doo” in the britches, “tee tee” on the pants, tears in Little Drummer Boy’s eyes and impatience in Mommy’s attitude to contend with–all in the 10-minute space before bath time.  It wasn’t one of my proudest moments, to say the least.

I took off LDB’s shoes, socks and pants, and cleaned him up, all the while nagging about the finer points of letting Mommy know when you “need to doo doo.”  I knew Hub was about to get LDB’s bath ready, so despite tears, I convinced him that we did not need to put his shoes back on.  Amidst many “no”s and “but, I NEED to put my pants on,” I also coerced him to walk back to his room (without anything covering his “bottom-boo”) to get a pull up.  With Little Drummer Boy’s concern growing and my patience dwindling, I had the brilliant idea that he could just stand there and wait a few minutes for Daddy to get the bath going — no wasted pull-up, no wasted pants, no wasted time.  Obviously, I hadn’t been listening.  There, with hands over his eyes and tears welling up, my Little Drummer Boy revealed his heart and got my attention.

“I don’t want to stand here (sob)… with no pants on.”

It was the voice of frustration and hurt.  It was the cry of having obeyed despite his own little personal cost.  Then, I knew.  I had taken his dignity.  For my own convenience.  And, it broke my heart.  I had made my sweet, modest baby boy walk from the bathroom to his room and stand there–half naked and exposed–in full view of Daddy and his brother while I lectured him on what he really “needed to do” when he had “doo doo.”  I had shown him complete and total disrespect as a person.  Yes, a quick look in the internal mirror proved that “doo doo” was the least stinky thing in the room at that moment.  I immediately got a clean pull-up and tried to soothe his spirit.

I’ve struggled over the last few days to understand why the experience affected me so much.  It was one of those moments that happen a hundred times in a week when we reason, cajole or scold to get something accomplished in a home with two toddlers and a baby.  LDB was over it almost immediately and on to more fun things.  But, I sat down and cried.  It was profoundly sad to me on several levels.

I was sad because Little Drummer Boy knew he was naked.  He knew he was exposed, and he was self-conscious about it.  It wasn’t the first time, I know, but it was another sign of growing up.  Somehow, without me realizing it, he had lost a little more of his innocence, the carefree freedom of being unaware.  And, like Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden when they realized they were naked, he felt the desire to be covered.  His heart cry reminded me again that things are not as they really should be, as God made them to be.  As beautiful and as loving as my beloved children are, they are still dirty without God.  And, I want them to know Him.

I was sad because I saw my own selfishness.  I had allowed my own schedule to prevail.  I was ashamed that my Little Drummer Boy had to shout his heart’s cry to be heard above MY voice.

I was sad because I valued something worthless over what is priceless.  I had focused on the inconvenience of dirtying another pair of pants rather than on nurturing a confident respect in his body and spirit.  In the zeal to train him, I overlooked an opportunity to affirm his modest attitude, something highly rare these days.

I was sad because I exposed him instead of covering him.  Something I thought I would never intentionally do to another human, I had done to my own child.  I had taken his dignity.  My first reaction should have been to cover –to shield and protect in the most intimate way as God did in that first Garden.  The mark of love is that it covers.  I want that to characterize my home.

We sometimes have the mistaken impression that children don’t need the same covering grown-ups do.  Sure, we cover their toes at bedtime and their ears at play time.  But, we often leave their heart desires exposed, assuming somehow that their feelings may not be as valid because they are young and immature.  I’ve realized how often I forget to show due respect to the baby people in my house simply because they are children.  Too often, I talk about them like they are not in the room, just because they may not understand the words.  Too often, I discuss one’s shortcomings while the other may be listening.  Too often, I ignore their concerns in favor of what works for me because I’m the adult.

Dignity and respect are rare commodities in our culture today.  Once lost, they are often hard to get back.  The latest episode in our “doo doo” chronicles was a valued lesson in protecting the baby humans under my care.  I want to so infuse my children’s lives with dignity–with respect and worth–that they know how to recognize it, desire to emulate it and strive to give it to others.

“Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.” (1 peter 4:8)

Gift Tags are the tiny messages God continues to include with our gifts — 2 little joys of boys and 1 little jewel of a girl, each with open eyes, open ears, open hearts, and much to teach. “Behold children are a gift of the Lord…” (psalm 127:1)

© Haley Montgomery

One Response to “Gift Tag: Lessons in Dignity”

  1. Daffodil Hill on December 12, 2008 12:29 pm

    I enjoyed all of your posts, but THIS ONE is a true jewel! Beautiful! Simply beautiful!
    Beth B

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