Last Saturday my wife flew to the East Coast with our baby daughter to visit relatives. I’ve been home – alone – with three boys (all under age 10) for almost an entire week.
Thankfully, my wife and daughter will be home tomorrow night, and our wonderful friends and family (including Fr!) have visited us, brought food, and made the week special and fun for me and the boys.
But this afternoon, all that Mr. Karl said to me was, “I’ll be interested to see what you write in your blog about this,” as he passed me a bag with the lunch he brought me.
“Angry,” was all I could mutter as I started toward the back of the house. Mr. Karl left my driveway as I made my way to deal with Step Two of the Problem.
Step One of the Problem was already in his room, serving time in isolation. Step One of the Problem was the three-year-old. Step Two of the Problem was dealing with the outside part of the mess.
About fifteen minutes before, I went outside to check on the three-year-old, playing in the front yard. The water faucet next to the front porch was running, and he and one of the dogs were in the running water, creating a massive tar-pit of loamy mud in the area between the house and the shrubbery. Amazingly, neither were too terribly dirty, yet.
The week before, I bought a “wireless fence” to prevent the dog’s wandering, and swimming in the two nearby irrigation ditches. You can be sure that was pining for a chance to get wet and dirty.
Oh, no, I thought. I had better deal with this.
I told the three-year-old to turn off the water, and get cleaned up before coming inside. The water went off and I stepped back inside to take care of something else. Mr. Karl was headed over with his baby son and we were going to have lunch together.
Five minutes later, I heard commotion at the front door, and one of my older sons was standing between me and the door, saying “Dad, you’ve never seen them this dirty before…”
Okay, I thought. Boys will be boys. They’re outside, at least. I took a deep breath and stepped out to the front steps.
The three-year-old was still relatively clean. On the other hand, the dog – normally yellow – was completely dark brown/black on his muzzle and face, and his lower half was submerged in the deep mud puddle. The front steps were entirely encrusted in wet muddy paw prints.
The dog’s expression was one of pure happiness. He had his boy. He had his mud. He was set.
I sent the boy inside with instructions to stay there (“Do NOT let the dog inside!”) and I raced around to the backyard to set up the kennel to contain the dog so I could I clean up the mess.
Then, from the back, I heard more commotion within the house. I opened the sliding door from the backyard to discover that the three-year-old had let the dog into the house, who was galloping all over the place, and the older boys were screaming and trying to get the dog back out.
I was furious. It seemed that the three-year-old deliberately let the dog in, after I specifically told him not to, and in the span of time covering this brief incursion, the hallway, hallway rug, and carpeting in the living and dining room became awash in mud and wet.
What a nightmare.
I sent the boy upstairs to his room and ran back outside because I still hadn’t gotten the dog contained. That’s when Mr. Karl drove up. I told him what had happened, and suggested that perhaps today wasn’t a good day for lunch after all, considering that I’d need to clean off the dog and then decontaminate half the downstairs.
Mr. Karl handed me the food he brought me and I went out back to undertake the thankless task of getting the dog cleaned off.
After that, I went inside, which is when I witnessed a small miracle.
The house was already almost completely restored! My middle son was straightening and generally picking up everything to make the house more tidy, while my oldest son had rolled up the hallway rug, cleaned all of the mud and wet off the floor, used carpet cleaner on the spots on the carpet, and was vacuuming the floor! They did all this without my having asked.
My two older boys managed to turn a situation of distress, irritation and anxiety into one where I felt thankful that they were there. They actually helped their father deal with a messy, unpleasant situation. They hadn’t waited to be asked. They saw that I was upset and they found a way to contribute to the solution.
Today I saw a glimpse of the future. It’s not set in stone. Just the foundation is laid right now.
But along the pathways we travel, my boys are headed toward becoming young men. They’re approaching the point of being of actual service to others. They’re looking for ways to show others kindness. They’re finding tests of patience in dealing with their little brother, and they’re responding to situations where they are called — not to do what they want — but to choose to do what is right.
And with that, I give thanks to God for the mess.
Say a prayer for me that I make it until tomorrow night! Have a wonderful weekend, and may God bless you richly, now and always.