Naomi has been a handful today. She’s tired, waaaay over-sugared, and fairly under-napped as well, since Malachi just HAD to go get his light-saber rightthisminute and forgot she was asleep. We went to an evening church service tonight. After church the kids ran around in vicious circles screaming and playing and knocking stuff over and sticking their hands in my water (Just, why?) until I was dun-dun-DONE and we left. Titust cried all the way home (poor, sleepy baby). When we got home and it was time to go inside, Naomi was dawdling and then turned around to look at the snail on the sidewalk.
There’s this awkward commercial (here it is) where the guy opens with, “Has anyone else been experiencing a snail infestation?” and I always yell, “Yes! ME!” because every time it rains we get tons of them all over our walkway. It was raining on the way home from church so when we got home – snails. Everywhere, snails.
Naomi: turns around
Jeremy: Naomi, don’t step on the snail!
Me: Naomi! Daddy said no! You killed the snail! It was alive and now it’s dead.
Yes, I actually said that. I shouldn’t have – but I was mad and tired and stressed out and really, really ready for bedtime. Naomi sauntered proudly into the house with quite the unfazed smirk on her face and I started the “Jackets off! Shoes off! Someone get the baby his paci!” routine when I looked up and noticed Malachi’s lip was quivering.
“What’s the matter, buddy.”
“I’m sad because Naomi stepped on the snail!”
And then he burst into tears.
You guys: this was heartbreaking. 99% of the time if my kids are crying it’s because they’ve been hurt or they’ve been punished. They are little, they haven’t experienced any kind of death yet, and it’s rare that true, genuine, innocent sadness happens. But here it was, sitting in my lap (barely fitting), crying on my shoulder because his sister killed the snail. After a few minutes he asked me,
“But why did Nani kill it?”
“I’m not sure, buddy.”
At this point I notice that Naomi is staring out the window, refusing to look at Malachi and I, completely expressionless. It scares me a little how she can detach herself from things. I turn her face towards me.
“Naomi, you need to tell Malachi you’re sorry.”
Two big tears roll out of Naomi’s eyes, and she quivers, “I’m sorry, Malachi.” I pull her into my arms and let her cry.
Me: “Naomi, I forgive you. This is why Daddy told you no, and why you should listen when we say no. He was trying to save the snail and to save you from being sad about the snail.”
Malachi: “But I’m sad Nani killed the snail.”
Me: “I know, buddy. It’s sad when something dies. But you know what? Jesus tells us that every time a leaf falls, or a bird sings, or a snail dies, He sees it and He cares. Because He made the world and He loves it.”
Malachi: “How will the snail get un-dead, Mama?”
Me: “Well, it won’t, buddy. It’s dead now. But it’s ok – there’s lots of other snails. God made a lot of snails.”
Malachi: “But I want ALL of the snails to be alive!”
Me: “I know, buddy. But if snails never died the whole world would be full of snails! Sometimes animals die to make room for new animals.”
Malachi: “But if Jesus loves the snail, why did He let it die?”
Me: deep breath… “Well buddy, even when Jesus loves something, He still sometimes lets it die. Everything that is alive dies sometime. Animals die. People die one day. Flowers die. It’s how the world works.”
Malachi: “But isn’t Jesus really sad about the snail? That Nani killed His snail He made?”
Me: “I’m sure Jesus is sad that the snail died. But you know what? He’s more sad that you are sad, and that you are sad, Nani. He cares a lot more about you than about the snail.”
Malachi: “But how can Jesus love Nani if she was bad and killed the snail?”
Me: “Malachi, have you ever done something bad?”
Me: “And did I still love you?”
Me: “Well, Jesus loves us, even when we do something bad, he still loves us so, so, so, so much. And Nani, just like I forgive you and Malachi forgives you, Jesus forgives you, too! And he wants you to be happy.”
Naomi: “But it was an accident, Mama.”
Me: “No, you didn’t step on him by accident. You stepped on him on purpose. But you probably didn’t mean to kill him, did you?”
Me: “Why did you step on him, Naomi?”
Naomi: “I wanted him to move out of the way.”
Me: “Well, next time why don’t you just step over the snails, ok?”
At this point both kids are in my lap, with one arm around me and one arm around each other, having completely forgiven but still sad.
Me: “You know what, guys? We don’t have to be sad anymore. One day when go to Heaven, nothing will ever die, and nothing will ever be sad! Because Jesus will be there.”
Malachi: “But what if there’s snails in Heaven and what if Nani steps on them there?”
Me: “Well, God won’t let that happen because sad things don’t happen there. And we can pray tonight that he will bring us a new snail friend tomorrow!”
Malachi: “But what if Nani steps on the snails tomorrow?!?!”
Me: “Are you going to step on them, Naomi?”
Naomi: “NO! I’m not.”
Me: “That’s good! See, Malachi? It’ll be ok.”
This whole time Jeremy was putting a crying, over-tired baby down for bed, so we finally went upstairs and got ready for bed. Naomi went potty all by herself without any prompting (this is HUGE) and that helped everyone feel happier and gave me a good reason to act (and be) super, super proud of her. We read our bedtime story with both kids cuddled up together in Naomi’s bed. When we prayed, we thanked Jesus for dying on the cross and rising again so we could live with Him forever. We asked him to take care of our snail in Heaven and send us a new snail friend. Malachi got a little teary again because that boy is MADE of sensitivity and Naomi got excited that she gets to put another sticker on the chart for going potty. All ended well.
I know more things were said that I left out – something about the snail turning into dirt to grow food for new snails to eat (which Malachi quickly interpreted as cannabalism #backpedal). And most of what I said was directed at both kids equally – Naomi listened intently to Malachi’s questions and my answers. Now I can hear them snoring through the monitors and hopefully soaking up all the sleep their bodies need.
For children, disobediance seldom leads to true remorse or repentance, but when her actions gave pain to those around her Naomi’s heart truly grieved over and repented of her sin. If Malachi wasn’t so sensitive, the whole thing would have blown over. If I wasn’t so stressed, they probably would never have known that the snail actually died. And even though it was sad, sitting on my living room carpet cuddling with my teary babies and talking gently about Heaven and forgiveness and the cycle of death and new life was such a gift. He makes all things good. He makes all things new.