It's a good thing that a very young children cannot really comprehend the concept of a bad idea.
Their sweet, innocent little minds are simply curious to explore the world in which they live, and beyond some minor problems with selfishness here and there, they approach almost every situation with a blessed lack of guile.
So I thought, until this afternoon.
Not that my 3-year-old suddenly obtained a deviously shrewd plan to wreak havoc upon my normally peaceful life. He's still far too oblivious to that kind of evil device.
No, he simply did not think things through when he came up with a brilliantly bad idea.
My wife had left for the grocery store the moment I got home from work, and as she had spent the entire day entertaining Jeff's curiosity, my task was to keep him occupied until she returned to make dinner. “No problem,” I assured her. “How much trouble can a 3-year-old be?”
I should have taken note when her eyebrows rose and she laughed knowingly. I was serious, of course. My previous experiences with our angelic offspring had given me no reason to suspect that he would attempt any activity that might result in punishment. As firm disciplinarians, we had trained him to sit quietly, take turns, speak respectfully, and so on. I nevertheless held the belief that he had a basically good nature, and would be just fine playing outside as I quickly checked the email for the week.
Twenty minutes later, I realized that all noise had ceased from the backyard. Rising from the computer chair, I strode to the door to see what my son had discovered.
To this day I praise God that I married in my 20's, or I surely would have suffered a heart attack in that moment.
“Hi, Daddy!” the sweet little voice called out – from the top of our pine tree!
I closed my eyes and willed myself to breathe calmly and easily. Upon opening them, I focused my gaze on the tiny figure waving as he swung back and forth on what seemed like the smallest of branches. “Hi there, Jeffy! How did you get up there?” I called out.
“I climbed up!” he exclaimed proudly.
“Wow, that's really high up! Are you okay?”
“Yeah! You look really small, Daddy!”
I stared at the tree, attempting to determine whether I might be able to climb it to rescue my adventurous child. Clearly oblivious to the inherent danger of perching 30 feet above the ground on an unstable tree top, he continued to swing in the air. Finally, seeing no other option, I asked, “Jeffy, can you climb back down all by yourself?”
“Sure!” Without hesitation, he reached for the nearest branch with his free hand. “Watch me, Daddy!”
“Okay.” Biting my lip, I stepped under the tree, keeping my eyes on Jeff the entire time. Please, God, don't let him fall! I prayed silently.
The next few minutes proved most torturous as my only offspring made his way slowly down the pitch-covered branches. I offered encouraging praises for each well-planned movement, inwardly rejoicing that, at that moment, he lacked my own paralyzing fear of heights.
At last, when he drew close enough to reach, I lifted him from the branch and set him upon solid ground. Kneeling down, I thanked God out loud for keeping him safe. “No more climbing for now, okay, Jeff?”
“Okay, Daddy,” he said. “But can I show Mommy when she gets home?”
I laughed nervously. “No, I'm sure Mommy wants you to stay on the ground and out of the tree.”
Mommy had a better idea, of course. Jeff could climb the tree again, yes, but not until he was six years old. He readily agreed to that plan as my wife assured him that it was much more impressive to be bigger before attempting such a daring feat.
You know, it might be a good idea to get some firewood for our wood stove. I think pine would work just fine.
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