Teething is never a fun time. Definitely not for the kid – they are crabby and cry and fuss, even when you know they’re trying to have a good time. They look at you with that ‘What’s wrong with my mouth?” look and expect you to fix it, and fix it quick. After all, you work for them, and if you can’t do your job right then maybe we’ll just have to look for someone else. Like Grandma. And of course Grandma knows all about Anbesol(the incredible ointment that numbs those aching gums) and has never bothered to bring it up, knowing that sooner or later it would score her some points with the little boss.
In fact, Grandma watches you try to calm your baby, trying everything from bottles to stuffed animals to music and anything else you can think of as you wander frantically around the house with the fussy little monster. After quite some time she says “here, let me try,” and you gladly hand him over. This time you are sure that none of the Grandma tricks are going to work. Let her deal with him for a little while, and then you’ll take another shift, and then…wait a minute. What did she just pull out of her purse and rub on his gums? And why is he all of a sudden sleeping for crying out loud?And there she is, rocking him, looking at you with that ‘it just takes a grandma’s touch’ silly grin on her face. For the next month Grandma is the favorite grownup, and you’re the jerk who couldn’t fix my mouth when it hurt.
And the really messed up part of this is that within a few years the kid doesn’t even remember this time in their life. But you do. Just wait ’til you have kids, Bucko. We’ll see who gets the last laugh.
Of course, after the first tooth or two come in, Grandma is more than happy to share her wisdom. “Just give him one of these to work on,” she says, and hands you a little tiny cookie called a teething biscuit. Okay, I think, this I can handle. So later on, after his nap and a bath, I put Josh in his high chair in the kitchen. We talk for a little while. I make him laugh. He makes me laugh. Good times. And then I give him this new treat.
He handles it tentatively at first. He’s seen me eat a million times. He knows how it works. He works on picking it up, and gives me Inquisitive Look # 351 (one of his favorites). “That’s right, it’s for you to eat!” I say, leaning over to act like I’m taking a bite. At this point he yells and pokes me right in the eye with the treat. Aparrently this is hilarious. After I recover from the initial sting, which took me by surprise, we replay this scene about a hundred more times. Then he finally gets around to putting it in his mouth.
It must taste okay, because he quickly loses interest in me and focuses on the cookie. It’s small, just the right size for his chubby little fingers, but large enough that he can’t get the whole thing in his mouth and choke on it. It’s hard and brown and reminds me of a gingersnap. I’m tempted to take a bite, just to see, but after the whole strained peas incident I’m not about to take that chance. He’s having a good time with it, so I decide it’s a good time to peek around the corner at the tv.
Now, so you understand the dynamics of this situation- the high chair is backed up to the wall in the kitchen, right next to the open doorway into the living room. I take two steps and I have a full view of the tv. But I can be back to Josh in less than a second if I need to. I’ve trained myself to hear him from quite a distance. I know every whisper, every gurgle, every cough, every cry. If there’s a problem, I’m there. On this particular day, I could clearly hear him talking to his snack, laughing, telling stories. I’m five feet away – or less. It’s thirty seconds – or less. I step back into the kitchen and nearly have a heart attack.
There are little globs of brown goo EVERYWHERE. The tray of the high chair is covered. There is goo on the floor. On the walls. On the ceiling fan. On the refrigerator on the other side of the room.
And on the boy. Up and down his arms. On his head. In the little bit of hair he has. All over his face. All over his shirt. Inside his shirt. On his legs. On his feet and between his toes. Later I find out that it’s even inside his diaper. It’s even on the bottom side of the high chair tray. It appears that during the thirty seconds my eyes were diverted, my child has gone off-roading in his high chair, and had a very good time. As I stare at him in shock, he gleefully looks at me and slams both hands on the tray. What is left of the biscuit from hell splatters around the room. A piece lands perfectly on the tip of my nose.
Good ol’ Grandma. I know in my heart that while this was happening she was somewhere laughing at me so hard that tears ran streaming down her face. I believe that it was at this moment that I first conceived of waiting until Josh was five or six years old, then feeding him Fruit Loops and Mountain Dew before dropping him off for a fun afternoon with the Grandparents.*
Josh doesn’t remember any of this. But he loves to hear about it. And I love to tell him stories about when he was little. We both laugh. I can’t wait until he has kids and gets the experience firsthand. I’m tempted to go out and buy some teething biscuits and Anbesol right now.
Ever wonder why Jesus and Paul and Peter all referred to new believers as children? Learning to follow Jesus can be a pretty messy process. Things that seem harmless can give us more experience than we ever imagined. While there are lots of ways that we can compare our relationship to Jesus with being kids, I think they’d all seen some spiritual teething biscuit moments in the early church and remembered them.
For some strange reason, people seem to think the church will be a nice, clean (sterile?) place where everything is neat and in order all of the time. They are surprised, dismayed, angry and/or critical when they find that it is not. The church is made up of people. People in various stages of life. And the fact is, people are messy. Everyone has teething biscuit moments. Usually they move past them – albeit into newer and even more bizarre messes, but isn’t that what makes life interesting? And there are spiritual “grandparents” out there, too. Wise older folks who have been around the block a time or two, and have some sage advice to help us along on our journey. Have you found one? You should. They almost always know how to get past the mess with a smile and a new story to tell.