The Clippings of a Conversation

While Mommy brushed James’ little white teeth with the glittery red strawberry toothpaste, Henry and I knelt beside his bed to wait for bedtime prayers. Just like two adults, we skated over the time with smalltalk. But then I asked him to share his favorite moment from the day.

Would he point to our afternoon bubble fest in the backyard? We scored all kinds of new bubble wands and pipes at the store. Would he point to the mountains of tree mulch that we shaped using his new construction digger? Or maybe today’s impromptu dance party, in front of the dining room table, to celebrate Mommy and Daddy’s wedding anniversary?

Alas, a chocolate chip cookie won top prize. Chomped up in 2.2 Cookie Monster seconds, this powerful carbohydrate left a lasting impression in Henry’s mouth.

But then he broached a new topic. “Daddy, remember when I was a baby (translation: three weeks ago) and I used to sleep with those, um, nail clippers every night? And then I would always put them in my pocket and take them everywhere I go (translation: steal them from the bathroom and take them to preschool)?”

He giggled through a wrinkled up nose as he described those days of yesteryear. “Yes, Henry, I remember you doing that. You used to be pretty silly.”

“Ya.” He agreed.

Soon Mommy and James entered the room and knelt beside us. When we do our bedtime prayers, for now, anyone can call out a thanksgiving or a prayer request as it comes to mind. Three-year-old James has surprised us by his leadership and passion in the area of prayer. He takes it quite seriously. He’ll praise God right down to the napkins on the table.

Once everyone finished their prayers, Henry stood up to climb into bed. But I noticed something unusual. He was clutching his shirt, rather tightly. He had scrunched most of his pajama shirt into a sizable wad over his chest. Most of his tummy was showing, yet he claimed there was nothing odd about this.

Earlier, he had informed me that there was a germ under his shirt. Supposedly, this germ resided in the inside pocket of his shirt, though he admitted no such pocket existed. “Okay, Henry.” I rolled my eyes and left it at that. But now I’m wondering if tonight’s pajama wad had something to do with this mysterious germ?

Of course, then came the shiny silver revelation: “Henry, do you have nail clippers under your shirt?” He answered by making one of his quickest entries into bed ever recorded.

Suddenly, James stands up in his bed and emphatically demands that he also needs a set of clippers in order to sleep tonight. And in less time than it took Henry to eat tonight’s cookie, James had already bolted off into the bathroom and was digging through Mommy’s designer box of nail paraphernalia.

Eventually, however, everyone was securely tucked in with their prayers and nail clippers — though maybe not so securely. A few minutes later, James opens his bedroom door with a low-grade cry. He shows me two outstretched fingers. Somewhere in the valley of his digits was an ouchy spot that needed a kiss.

But then I felt compelled to ask a question. “So, James, does this ouchy have anything to do with those nail clippers?” He stopped crying immediately. He avoided my eyes and put on his serious professional doctor face. He assured me there was absolutely no connection. Still, the squinty-eyed doctor was baffled. “I just don’t know how it happened,” he said.

He shook his head back and forth until I spoke. “James, nail clippers are pretty cool, aren’t they?” He agreed with me on that point. “What do you like about them? Do you like how they’re super shiny?”

“Yes!” he squealed. “And there are these two parts that come together that go — ” Here he made a dramatic up-and-down motion with his arms. Excited, he could look me in the eyes again.

So here came my clear-the-throat moment: “James, did those parts pinch your finger?” He thought about it and then finally made his confession. I thanked him, kissed him, and then directed him back to bed.

Little boys aren’t alone in their obsession with shiny silver toys. I’m also guilty of clutching playful distractions and then assuring God they’re harmless — until I end up suffering a painful pinch of my own. Mercifully, God has patiently endured many of these same conversations with me.

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