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Apr. 21st, 2007 | 10:18 pm
music: "je sais deja"

I spent the day at Chuck-E-Cheese's today. What a strange place! Not as strange as some, and not at all unpleasant to anyone in relatively good health and humor(the kids and their noise, erratic movements, germs, and such might prove too much for the faint of heart). Lately, I have noticed that I spend a large percentage of my time with children, and I'm not quite sure why. One individual, who currently resides in that no man's land that is adolescence, was kind enough to point out that I don't hang out with people my own age. This isn't completely true, but like all half-truths, it did its work and made me self-conscious about the rather unbalanced nature of the demographics of my associates. It's actually a little amusing, because I'm not the sort to say "I love kids" or to get misty-eyed about the little critters.
In truth, I feel a bit relieved when all the other grown ups are gone and I can say what I'm thinking, and have the "young people"(as one teacher calls them) respond in kind. The other day I was having a wretched morning, having cut my sleep prematurely short and rolled up and out grumpily. I was being short and snippy with the kids, and my patience was sadly lacking. Finally, I blurted out, "I need to get out of here." One little girl, aged 10, immediately answered, "Yes, you do. You're all short and rude this morning!" This little girl is chronically rude and irreverent herself, and my first impulse was to blast her for her impudence. But the moment passed, and I chuckled internally as it slid by.
There is something rejuvenating and restorative about acknowledging a weakness, a flaw, a sin, or a mistake, and having someone testify to it as well. After my inadvertent confession and my little companion's subsequent testimony, my morning steadily improved. The point is, I begin to realize that I don't love kids as much as I should, but I do appreciate the affect they have upon me! They make me nuts half the time, and the rest of the time I find myself wishing I were more like them.
Whenever one of them gives me a compliment(which they do almost constantly, God bless them), I feel inspired to thank them and thank God, rather than congratulate myself. Similarly, when they criticize, I find the responsibility rests squarely on my own shoulders. It's the strangest thing! Even their insincere flattery makes me squirm in discomfort, as though they had read my mind and revealed my own pettiness. Lies from them, or unkindness,or sullen defiance, or filthy language, makes me burn with indignation, as though someone had snapped a lovely sapling in two, or poisoned their milk, and tried to make me a party to it.

Unfortunately, I haven't learned to express these thoughts and emotions quite fluently yet at opportune moments. Very often I just get mad, or frustrated, or discouraged about what I see. But I think I'm learning to be thankful, and to set more store on prayer and good will than on correct answers and clean finger nails. Also, I am remembering what I once knew instinctively: that love, real love, is bestowed before approval. That's a hard truth for me to believe, and a harder one for me to emulate. But I rest easy, knowing that I have the best of teachers. To His credit, He is even more determined to teach me my lessons than I am to learn them.

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