Consider this a part two from yesterday’s post where I reflected on the beginning of my Sabbath, as this gives “the rest of the story .” In reflecting back on this Sabbath, I realize I really should have brought a change of clothes when I agreed to go to the Hood River congregational picnic, because it would have made the trip a lot more fun. As it was, I enjoyed myself, but also had to pay a great deal more attention than I wanted to pay to footprints on my pants and red dirt on my shoes. But anyway, that is only a minor part of the story, and a minor irritation, so I would like to move on to other matters that are vastly less pleasant, only to note that a change of clothes would have been nice.
Having never driven to Hood River before (though I have gone there as a passenger a few times), I have to say that the Columbia River Gorge is very beautiful and I feel spoiled to have such amazing scenery in rivers and mountains and waterfalls and green forested hills so close to me. When I arrived there, I was asked to give the opening prayer (the subject of why I don’t give sermonettes came up later and was a revealing conversation that I will have to keep in mind). It was a pretty well-attended Sabbath, for the area, as there were a few visitors from Portland who I got to chat with and also a visitor from my favorite-named town in Idaho who was friendly and played the piano for some of the hymns because the regular pianist is dealing with a possible nearly-detached retina (!) right now. I hope she feels better soon.
After services and a pretty substantial time for fellowship, which I enjoyed, even if it meant being dragged around by a girl who I imagine will be like my future daughter if I am ever blessed enough to have one. When I am around children, especially children who are fond and friendly, I ponder and reflect a lot about questions of parenting, even if I don’t consider myself remotely close to achieving that state myself. For example, I wonder if all children are exhausting as the ones I happen to have seen, all so needy for attention and care, even if that means trying to push several girls at a time on a swing set in a park when they are all crying out things like, “Push me!” “Push me with two hands!” “I’m going higher than you!” and other related comments. Sometimes being even a friendly adult guest of a family leads one to feel like the harried parents of needy chicks in a nest who are constantly calling out for care. I know that I’m not all that energetic of a person and I value a lot of time where I sit and think rather than run myself ragged, and a lot of children seem to be really energetic and in constant need of adult attention and external stimulation, which can be very wearisome.
I also wonder about related concerns. For example, how much help should one expect from older children in taking care of younger children, seeing as parents of large families lack the time and energy and resources to deal with all of the needy little ones at the same time? Also, how does one determine who is appropriate to be alone with or to spend time with one’s kids. I tend to be someone who is deeply concerned when it comes to questions of appropriate conduct, given that I have seen a wide gulf between the way I view myself as mostly harmless and fairly polite and patient and longsuffering with others, and kind and gentle with others, and the way in which others have sometimes been afraid of my intentions. My life has tended to encourage those more frantic and occasionally paranoid concerns rather than to calm my considerable “natural” anxieties. I do my best to be kindly affectionate while keeping some sense of distance, even if children are sometimes fond, it seems, of having me be their personal jungle gym. When I recognize that a young person needs a fair bit of attention because of their own personality and longings and experience, but desire to do so in a way that does not provoke their worries or the worries of parents and other adults or affect my own honor and reputation, I find it a stressful matter to deal with. Finding kindred spirits, young or old, is not always a pleasant or straightforward matter for me.
I wonder if the experience I get in dealing with children and young people in general will ever serve me of use in my own longings for a happy marriage and leading a loving and godly family. I do know that a great deal of young women gain practice in being good mothers, and in thinking and pondering about the problems of adulthood and family, in their own babysitting or nannying or taking care of little ones in general. It has been my experience and observation that young men do not often seem to have the same sort of mindset of thinking or being concerned about these problems to the same degree or in the same frequency as young women do. Given my own personal history, and probably my own natural gentleness of personality (which may be difficult for some people to believe, I know), I have always paid a great deal of attention to the attitudes and personality and behavior of children from infancy to adulthood, even as I have always been concerned that this unusually intense interest in such matters may tend to frighten more sensitive little ones as well as mark me as even more eccentric than I would wish to be seen as. I pondered these matters as I found myself the chauffeur of three of the members of a large troop of children today from church services to a picnic, knowing that perhaps someday I will be driving my own small troop of little ones with me, God willing. I suppose it pays to get some practice now in being a thoughtful and attentive and caring father, if I ever have the chance to be one.