I had a profound moment with my seven year old daughter (our oldest of five) at dinner last night. It was the type of moment that makes all the banging, spilling, whining, crying and howling (you should see the list of what the children do) worth the effort. As a parent, I sometimes wonder if anything is getting through or if the family is just surviving.
We’ve limited desert to Friday and Saturday nights, and this Saturday we had a few cookie options for them to choose from. The kids know they only get one cookie.
As we were holding out the pan from which to choose, Quinn looked vexed. It’s a tough decision! She picked a cookie and then immediately asked for a different one. After exchanging three times, I was about to intervene (which would normally mean pouting and crying). I was hoping we could enjoy desert for once.
Then it happened. Quinn matured a little before my eyes.
“How come when I have this cookie, I want that cookie? But when I have that cookie, I want this cookie?” She asked exasperated.
“It’s something we all have to deal with,” I said delighted. Here was a chance to do some actual parenting!
“You’ve just stumbled upon a great truth Quinn,” I said. “We were made to love God. But that desire sometimes makes us want other things like cookies, candy or new cars. But when we get that new piece of candy, because it’s not God, it cannot make us truly happy. It can make us happy for a little while, but eventually we’ll want the next piece of candy, hoping it will make us happier. But in the end, only God can make us truly happy. Everything else is just a gift that we get to enjoy.”
Quinn finished her cookie and didn’t say much. I had no idea if she comprehended anything I said.
The next morning we were in the middle of the mad rush to get out the door in time for church when Quinn said, “Daddy, I’m not going to eat a donut after church today.”
This Sunday morning was Donut Sunday. The one Sunday a month all the families gather to eat donuts and fellowship after mass. It’s the best behaved mass of the month.
“Why not?” I asked while wrestling a toddler.
“Because I love God,” she said matter of factly.
Before I could inquire further she asked, “Do the saints not eat donuts?”
“Well,” I answered carefully, “saints will sometimes give up things. You see, if we start to think about something all the time, more than we do about God, it’s a good thing to let it go for awhile.”
“I’ve been thinking about donuts too much,” she said. “So I’m not going to get a donut.”
“OK,” I said with a proud smile. “I’ll skip donuts today too.”
And just like God has a way of doing, He forgoed Quinn’s “other donut” temptation as Donut Sunday ended up being cancelled. So while the rest of the the family was devastated, Quinn and I just smiled.