Lately Ethan has been a praying fiend. On one hand, it makes me (and M.C. Hammer) happy to see that he is incorporating this spiritual discipline into his everyday. It is especially sweet in a moment like on Sunday morning when poor Connor had thrown up. His upset stomach took a toll that day and the first part of Monday. I heard Ethan pray for healing and tell Connor later that recovery came because Ethan had prayed for him.
Before you sigh and think, ‘Oh, how sweet, that dear boy,’ please know that most of his prayers are on a very different tone. As a family, we pray before meals and as a part of the boys’ bedtime routine. These recent times of Ethan’s independent prayer life began with him telling me that right before he goes to sleep, he prays again. He prays that God will please wake him up early so that he won’t be late for school. Every night. Amen.
I need to explain that my older son’s type A personality is revealing itself more and more. He HATES being late for school. I confess he had 3 tardies his first semester. Oops. I do the nice and easy car drop-off with him. The thing with the car drop-off lane is that it is as unpredictable as a borderline personality disorder. Sometimes we leave 15 minutes before the bell but are barely there on time because the line is especially long and slow. Other times we leave 10 minutes before the bell and Ethan has to stand outside because the line was fast and short. In his admirable efforts to not be tardy, Ethan many mornings will hurriedly buckle into his booster seat and sit alone in the dark garage waiting for Connor and me.
Connor, the polar opposite, takes his sweet time in the mornings. No matter how often I repeat “Connor, put on your shoes!” he will still examine the dust particle on the foyer floor like it is the most fascinating thing in the universe before slowly, SLOWLY getting his shoes on while his older brother ages in the dark garage.
There will be mornings when we are in that dreaded long drop-off line, and Ethan is on the verge of a panic attack. “It’s 7:53!” “Hurry up!!” “It’s 7:54!” “I wish we could fly over all these cars!” “It’s 7:55!!!” Some mornings, I wonder if he will be the youngest person to develop an ulcer. In his mind, God is answering his prayers because he usually does wake up early enough and amazes me with his determination to get ready and get out the door. God bless baby Type A personalities!
Sometimes after the kids finish homework I will let them play on the computer. Yesterday was one such day, and they were fighting over whose turn it was to go first. I told them they should play “Rock, Paper, Scissors” to decide. They agreed despite the fact that Connor was rather clueless. While I explained the game to my younger son, I noticed Ethan clasp his hands, close his eyes, bow his head, and whisper his urgent prayers for “Rock, Paper, Scissors” victory. ‘Oh, how sweet, that dear boy?’ Unfortunately for him, Connor had beginner’s luck, won 2 out of 3 and got to play on the computer first. That may have added some gastric juices to Ethan’s growing ulcer.
Connor’s prayers are usually just the ritualistic, “Dear God, Thank you for this food. (We Becketts are always very grateful for our food!) Amen.” It’s a small miracle that he prays for his sweet friend Sydney at bedtime. Unlike his older brother, Connor has yet to pray independently. He does, however, chime in when I’ll sing, “yeh, yeh, yeh, yeh…yeh, yeh, yeh, yeh, yeh….” with the follow up guttural “UUUUHHHH!” Instead of developing a prayer life of his own, Connor is singing, “Locked Out of Heaven.” Let’s hope this is not an indication of his spiritual future.
After Ethan’s “Rock, Paper, Scissors” prayer, I felt compelled to tell him that God is not a genie granting us our (sometimes selfish) wishes. I tried to explain the abstract purpose of prayer in concrete terms to my 7 year old who was already by that time over his loss and actively bossing his brother’s turn on the computer. No matter how unpopular my lectures are, I cannot help but pour them out. It’s a serious sickness. 🙂
With no audience, I thought that I was probably the one who needed to hear it most anyways. My prayer life has had much longer to evolve yet sadly at its core does not appear too terribly different than Ethan’s. Like Ethan, I most often go to Him in times of need (whether mine or others but hopefully for more substantial things than waking up early) and list off wishes for Him to grant. Like Connor, I probably am more often singing silly song lyrics (no offense, Bruno, I do love you) than taking the time to commune solely with my Maker. For kids in the single digit years of age, it is mildly humorous. For an adult three decades later, it is starving myself on spiritual milk when a banquet of hearty delicacies await me instead. My prayer is to be a woman of true prayer, not of genie wish-making. And in those deep moments of nurture, my boys’ may develop their own as both an answer to those times and a byproduct of my example. Maybe the lyrics I should be singing every day are M.C. Hammer’s.