This post is a part of my “Board Book Beauty – Savoring the small as I read to my toddler” series. To see all of the posts in the series, go here.
Katie’s stuffed animal friends of choice rotate on a regular basis – one month, the bunny will be her companion, the next, it’s the hippo. In the first few weeks of Abby’s life, her favorites include a duck (given to Abby but appropriated by Katie) and a moose, so when Jonathan spots Duck, Duck, Moose!
She adores the book. The text is simple enough: nothing more than the words in the title, repeated over and over again. It’s the illustrations that tell the story, and it’s the illustrations that delight her. They depict two fastidious ducks, cleaning and baking and decorating, and a clumsy moose who is constantly stumbling into their work, wreaking havoc wherever he goes.
After an hour of Duck, Duck, Moose! being in our home, we’ve read it enough times that she shrieks “Moose!” with me at the appropriate times. Her laughter enables me to keep turning the pages, to keep reading these same two words again and again and again, long past the time when I normally would have insisted we move on to something else.
That evening, I sit in the rocker in the nursery, holding Katie close. We’re nearing the end of our bedtime routine. I ask Katie who she’d like to pray for. She doesn’t hesitate.
“Moose?” I ask. “Why do you want to pray for Moose?”
“Make mess,” she says.
I should have seen this one coming; messes of a certain kind disturb Katie to no end. She’s been known to cry real tears over spilled glasses of water, to break down into hysterics when an open box of pasta drops and the noodles skitter across the floor, and so she must feel a great affinity for the hapless moose and his plight. For a moment, I’m humbled by my little girl’s heart, by the fact that she sees no issue with praying about the things that weigh on her mind, whatever they might be. I would do well to learn from her example.
Still, I hesitate, uncertain of how to talk to the creator of the universe about a character from a children’s book. I improvise.
“God, please help Moose and everyone who makes messes. Help them to know messes happen to everyone sometimes. Help their friends to love them well and to help them clean up. And help them to make fewer messes in the future. Amen.”
This prayer seems to satisfy her. I settle her into her crib, and, after the requisite kisses and sips of water and last goodnights, I leave her room and she drifts off to sleep.
It isn’t until much later that I realize my prayer encompasses much of the living-out aspect of this Christian faith, much of what I hope Katie learns as she grows: we all make a mess of things sometimes. Friends love each other through it all. We should help those around us fix the ugly places, whether made by themselves or by others, and we should strive to avoid bringing more turmoil into the world. And we can do it all only by the grace of God.
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