Last Sunday, like I always do, I left church during the last song to pick up Elias from the nursery. Crosspoint’s nursery wing is in a separate building from the auditorium. After I picked him up, Elias and I walked out the front door of the nursery wing, around the corner and up a few stairs.
“We going to see Mommy?” asked Elias, following the sidewalk back to the church.
I was getting ready to answer him, but he didn’t give me the chance. Squeezing my hand, he said, “I got a timeout.”
“What?” I said.
“I gotta timeout!” He was pointing at something. But I couldn’t tell what he was pointing at.
“A timeout? Really?” Figuring that his nursery worker would have told me if Elias had gotten a timeout (do church nurseries even do timesouts? I’m not sure). He must be dreaming, I thought. But just in case, I questioned him some more.
“You gotta a timeout, Elias?”
“I got timeout,” he said, pointing again.
“Why did you get a timeout? What did you do?”
He looked at me. “I crying.”
Still confused, I asked. “Who gave you this timeout, Elias?”
Grinning, he said, “Daddy did! Daddy gave me timeout!”
He was pointing again, and that time I could tell that his little finger was pointing at the wooden bench that is located outside one of the church entrance ways. And that’s when it dawned on me what he was referring to. Six or seven weeks earlier, Elias was having a rough morning and refused to go to the nursery. Rather than fighting it, we took him with us into the service. About three songs into the service, it was obvious that our plan wasn’t going to work. So as he was kicking and screaming, I carried him out of the auditorium and then out the church’s front door, hoping the fresh air might calm him down. It didn’t. Rather than simmering his heated temper, he slapped my face.
“Elias,” I said, “We don’t hit Daddy. Mommy and Daddy don’t hit Elias and Elias is not allowed to hit Mommy and Daddy… ” (Blah… blah… blah… You know the routine, right?)
Rather than saying sorry and confessing his “hitting” unto me, he stared at me with “Oh yes we do” in his eyes.
Then he began slapping himself as if to say… “I’m hitting again. I’m hitting…”
This went on for a couple more minutes. And then, when I couldn’t get him calmed down, I set him down on the exact bench he’d pointed out and gave him a timeout (It was actually a “time-in,” since I stayed right there with him and talked him through it)…
But he remembered it. Six or seven weeks had passed (at least! It could have been more) but Elias remembered it.
He’s two-and-a-half. And it happened once. ONCE.
The best part (or perhaps the saddest part) of his “remembering” this event was that… as he spewed off the details, at one point he started doing his “fake crying” routine. No tears. No real cry. Just sad pathetic looking facial expressions.
Obviously, that event was a bit of wake-up call. A child’s memory is long. Right now, even though I am convinced that Elias doesn’t pay attention to me, his brain is soaking up snapshots of memories, things that he might possibly remember later on.
It dawned on me that…
How I talk to him matters.
How he sees me talking to Jessica matters.
How he witnesses me being angry or frustrated or impatient… it matters.
How I engage him matters…
How I listen and watch and respond matters…
And that’s overwhelming at times. I realize I can’t over-think it. But I must consider it. I can’t be complacent with it. I have to think about it.
Because he’s thinking about it (at least, some of it)…