Like all parents, I had to take Jonah to new and different places to keep up with the changes in his little world. I realized that, in small ways, people judge us according to how Jonah acts. If he’s a great little kid with a good smile, fun giggle and a calm temperament, we’re doing ok. If he’s raising the roof with screaming, if he’s destroying valuable property or generally causing a ruckus, we’re to blame. New places with new sights and people can upset Jonah sometimes. Like his father and grandfather before him, he doesn’t like to sleep in a bed other than his own. Change can be tough.
Since Jonah can crawl, he changed to a different Sunday School class. I was not too crazy about him graduating. I’m not too good with these kinds of changes, and I was not looking forward to going to his next class. I was worried that he wouldn’t like the new area, with the toys scattered all over the room. The last place was great, with all the rocking chairs and beds for him to sleep in. This new one didn’t have nearly as many of those things, and the toys looked like they were miles apart to me. He’d have to travel to play. I was nervous.
His last class was full of people who knew him and were happy to see him. Heck, it was like taking Norm from the television show Cheers to Sunday School.
Them: Jonah! How’s it going?
Jonah: However it’s going, it better have food in it…
We would walk near the old classroom and I’d have people trying to take him out of my hands. It was a great atmosphere, where they loved to see him coming and he recognized that these were friends. A small part of me liked to claim that greeting for myself. They were excited to see Jonah and those smiles were for him, but I would think, “It’s nice to see me, too. I’m his Dad. That’s right. I’m his Dad.” I would feel like a member of a professional athlete’s entourage. I should have worn dark glasses and carried Jonah’s cell phone for him or something. Getting into that old class meant that they were excited to see him because they knew him. They knew us. We got credit if Jonah was good. We had to handle it when Jonah struggled. Fortunately, Jonah was mostly good. And we got credit.
He graduated, however, and I took him across the hall to another class with smiling people who were not quite as excited. They didn’t know his name or my name. They couldn’t understand when I told them that I was not used to carrying him all the way into the class, that someone usually greeted us in the hall with squeals and smiles and hellos. They didn’t understand that I had a lump in my throat because I missed the old Jonah who couldn’t crawl. They didn’t understand that I missed the credit I got from the squealing, smiling friends.
This was a new group of teachers who showed me the new system of dropping off and picking up Jonah—no greetings in the hallway, just at the door. (Crawlers would get out of hand if they were picked up in the hallway). This was a new group of teachers who didn’t know that he doesn’t need someone to rock him to sleep; he sleeps on his own. This was a new group of teachers who believed that Jonah would actually cry when he’s hungry. I thought, “THESE PEOPLE DO NOT KNOW MY SON! DON’T THEY KNOW THAT JONAH WILL STARVE BEFORE HE’LL CRY? DON’T THEY KNOW THAT?!?!”
I walked away from that new class with a sense of my parental future. I paused for a moment, just to hear that little laugh I used to hear from Jonah when I left the old class. I almost ran out of the church right there—I hated this new class. I wasn’t changing, but Jonah sure was. I wasn’t getting the credit I usually got. I had to adjust better than this. I know I’ll have years of small heartbreaks like these, but I don’t know if I’ll live that long. As for Jonah, he couldn’t care less. I dropped him off at his new Sunday School class and he smiled and squealed like he was in the old class.
I walked away from the sound of Jonah’s squeal thinking about how sometimes dads do the one thing they don’t want to do. They do the hard thing. They drop their kids off in the creepy crawler Sunday School.