The other day my family and I were celebrating a special event at a fun Mexican restaurant, when my two-year-old son decided he wanted to be the center of attention. Well, not really, but it ended up that way.
As I was ordering my meal and talking to the waiter, my son stood up in his chair, lost his balance and accomplished a trifecta of destruction: 1) his chair fell sideways in the aisle, landing with a loud “thud” at the feet of several other guests, 2) his cup of water and seemingly 300 ice cubes careened across the floor, forming a huge lake, and 3), he fell to the floor, too, and had a look of shock on his face apparently wondering how he had made such a big mess so fast.
He thankfully was fine, but it was only our latest example of something every parent already knows: It’s not easy taking children to restaurants. One of our three kids enjoys crawling under the table from time to time. Another one wants only to sit in my lap. All three would eat anything found on the floor if given a chance. And I haven’t even talked about what one of my boys likes to do in the men’s restroom.
My wife and I use electronics only sparingly with our children, but when we’re at a restaurant trying to have a good, pleasant meal and conversation – and not waste $25 or more — we’ll sometimes pull out our smartphones and let them play a game or two.
Honestly, just about any game will work with a toddler, but I’ve found that apps with animals works best with our kids. Here are my four favorite apps that distract my toddlers long enough for me to eat more tortilla chips, drink another glass of tea, or simply talk with my wife a few more minutes.
Several years ago, when I tried to read my oldest son a story from his first children’s Bible, he tried to eat the cover. And the pages. It was not surprising, since he was still drinking a bottle and not yet age 1.
He was still learning the concept of “books.”
But perhaps he was on to something and just took it too far. After all, Scripture does say that we are not to “live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).
We give our children bread (food), and we are to feed them God’s Word, too. In fact, that’s what God told the Israelites. In Deuteronomy, God tells parents to teach children His Word “when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise” (Deuteronomy 11:19).
Parents, then, have the responsibility not just for their own spiritual condition, but for their children’s, too. Children’s Bible story books — also known as children’s Bibles — are a good start.
Sometimes, the most humorous moments as a parent can be packed full of spiritual lessons.
For instance, recently my 19-month-old son stuck his hand in the toilet and was ready to lick his fingers, until I stopped him. He was as giddy as could be, giving me a big toothy smile. “No,” I told him, “You don’t play in the toilet. That’s icky.” But he was still grinning, ready to dive back in.
Weeks later, I placed him in a toddler swing, buckled him up, and proceeded gently to push him. He liked it for about half a second but began crying, and so I got him out. He then ran away from it.
I probably won’t ever forget that sequence of events: My son wanted that which could make him sick but rejected that which would bring him happiness. If you’re a parent, you’ve probably seen that sequence, too, in some form. Over and over.
I think God gives us situations like that to make us laugh, yes, but also to give us a picture of ourselves. After all, my youngest son is me. And you. Every day. Don’t we regularly want that which brings sickness and death (sin) and reject that which brings joy (God)?
Think of the worst temper tantrum your child ever threw, or the worst moment of rebellion in your teen’s life, or – if you’re still struggling – that time in your high school days when you treated your parents like dirt.
I’m not talking about those times when you laughed at your 2-year-old as he or she ridiculously squirmed all over the floor because you wouldn’t budge on the no-you-can’t-eat-DVDs rule. And I’m not referring to Opie Taylor’s fake temper tantrum on “Andy Griffith,” when he tried to pitch a tantrum, but failed. I’m referencing situations in which you, as a parent, felt like a failure, and you grieved over your child’s actions. But you still loved your kid.
Not really fun to ponder, huh?