Usually when our four-year-old, Liz, wakes up in the morning, she calls “Daddy!” and then the one-year-old (Paul) and I go “searching” for her.  Paul and I are always the first up, and we start our mornings in the kitchen getting breakfast going. 

But when Liz calls, we lay aside pots and pans and go “searching.”  I carry Paul in my arms and tromp up the stairs as loudly as possible, calling in a sing-song voice:  “Liz!  Is there a Liz up here?  I thought I heard a Liz!” 

When we get to the top of the stairs and turn into her room I continue, “I don’t see her!  Where could Liz be!  All I see is a big lump of blankets!”  That is because Liz has pulled the covers over her head and curled up in a ball. 

Paul and I sit on the bed and start thumping the blankets all around the lump, working our way inward from the edge, all the while declaiming loudly:  “Where is Liz?  I wonder where she could be?  Liz!  Liz!  Has anyone seen Liz!” 

At last, when all the rest of the bed has been vigorously thumped, I say, “We’ve checked everywhere, the only thing left is this lump of blankets . . .” and then I peel the covers back . . . and voila!  Paul yells in triumph:  “There she is!” and we all start laughing. 

It’s a fun way to start our mornings. 

But then came a dark and snowy morning in the middle of an icy winter when things unfolded in a very different, and ominous, way. 

Liz didn’t call from her room.  Paul and I were working in the kitchen when Liz suddenly appeared on her own, standing at the kitchen door and looking serious. 

“Dad,” she said.  “I need to talk to you.”

“Ok,” I said, drying my hands on a dishtowel.

“I have a question to ask you,” Liz said.

Uh-oh.  I sometimes dread these questions.  Like the time I went to wake her when she was still sleeping, and when I jiggled her arm she opened her eyes, looked at me, and the first words out of her mouth were:  “What language did Adam and Eve speak?”  How’s that for a “good morning!” from your four-year-old.

And now here was Liz again on another morning with another question. 

I braced myself.

“Alright,” I said.  “What’s your question?”

“Dad,” she said, “I’m starting a club.  Do you want to be in it?  So far Pooh and I are the only members.”  (She’d slept with Winnie the Pooh during the night.) 

Ahhh, a sigh of relief. 

“Yes,” I answered with a smile, “I’d love to be in your club.” 

“Here,” she said, handing me a piece of paper and a crayon.  “Write down your letter.”  (Which means the letter my name starts with.)  I wrote down “my letter” and handed the paper and crayon back to Liz. 

So now I’m in a private club with Winnie the Pooh—not a bad way to start to a cold, snowy morning. 

Later, though, creeping formalism began to overtake the club.  Mom and sister Stephanie (aged three) were admitted to our august membership, and Liz then brought me a new list and required that I write my full name as well as the nickname by which I’d like to known.  But the formalism was tempered with mercy:  Liz also informed me that little brother Paul could join the club, and that “it’s ok if he breaks the rules, because it’s hard for babies to follow rules.” 

“Rules?” I asked.  “What are the rules?”

“You have to hold hands with your partner and have fun.”

Partners were assigned, and it turned out that Liz and I were partners.  So apparently Paul is now the only one in the family allowed to go about empty-handed and grumpy. 

Fielding questions from my kids has taught me to heed the advice of Scripture:  “Know this, my dear brothers:  everyone should be quick to hear, slow to speak . . .”  Jas, 1, 19.  And I’ve found that my best answers generally come after I’ve given my thoughts a little time to percolate, or as the Bible tells us:  “Set a guard, Lord, before my mouth, a gatekeeper at my lips.”  Ps 141, 3.  

And then when I finally venture an answer, I’ve found that less is generally more, per the Bible:  “Be brief, but say much in those few words . . .”  Sir 32, 8.  And when all else fails, my great back-up:  “I don’t know”—or as Scripture tells us:  “Even a fool, if he keeps silent, is considered wise; if he closes his lips, intelligent.”  Prov 17, 28.     

A great example was when I got the classic question:  “Where do babies come from?”  My answer was short and sweet:  “From God.”  Which is not only true, but also completely satisfied my four-year-old.  And at this age, I don’t think that anything more would have been very intelligible to her anyway; I could have talked a lot more and ended up conveying a lot less.  The short version even led to a discussion about the fact that God makes everything that is, that God even made Liz, and God made Liz intentionally, just the way He wanted her to be. 

Not that I planned any of that, but it’s always better to be lucky than good!  Like when I got to join an exclusive club with Pooh bear, it was one of the unintended blessings that rewards practitioners of spare speech! 

Copyright 2014, Jake Frost