The Lock Edited

It was a small thing. Almost unnoticeable and certainly prosaic. It was early evening. We’d finished dinner but weren’t ready for  the bedtime routine so we decided to all head out and run an errand to the bookstore so I could get a new Bible Study book and a numbers poster for Nathan.

There was the usual hubbub of clearing dishes, finding shoes, and moving toward the door.

(Note: Why does it take so much effort to get just three people to the car with everything they need for only a 10 minute drive?!?)

I heard a little voice calling to me as I gathered my things, “Mama.” 

I hear that name so often. So frequently that my brain sometimes doesn’t even register it anymore, treating it instead like background noise of traffic or the air conditioning. But this time I heard and turned from grabbing my purse and said, “What Nathan?” And I saw him standing by the front door, his arm stretched high over his head.

He repeated, “Mama,” and then tapped his fingers on the lock.

Oh that lock. It is above the round door handle and he can barely reach it. He stretches up just enough to touch the bottom of it and can flip it from the up/down of locked to the horizontal position of being unlocked. The tantalizing brass and the feeling of moving a piece of machinery is like a magnet to this boy. He has not been able to help himself from touching it and flipping it. At first it wasn’t a big deal, I saw it as one more thing he was learning to do. But then I started looking over at the door at various times during the day and finding it unlocked. Not cool. I started telling him, “no touch.” He kept unlocking it. Frustration.

It finally became a time-out offense, which is the worst level of discipline in our house. I try to save it for danger or aggression. This certainly fell into the danger category. We cannot live in a house that may or may not be locked at the whim of a toddler and his love for mechanical things. I began to consistently make him re-lock the door and sit in time-out if he unlocked it without permission. This got very annoying when he would unlock it just before we needed to leave the house. I also worked to give him ample sanctioned opportunities to unlock it. I didn’t want him to feel like it was a privilege he couldn’t have, but instead a privilege that required permission. It got to the point that he didn’t even protest the time-outs. He knew he’d done something disobedient.

So in the middle of that ordinary bustling evening, the one small word and gesture meant so much more than they appeared. He was taking a big step forward on the bridge of self-control. Seeing that lock, knowing it needed to be unlocked and that he could do it, he stopped, waited, got my attention and asked permission. That’s big stuff when you are only two!

I gave him permission and then we had a mini party there in the entryway. High fives and congratulations. Kisses and hugs. Every job well done deserves to be celebrated. 

And like a true Mama, I got a little misty eyed as I thought about my boy growing older and in wisdom. Goodness gracious how I love him.