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Don't Settle for a Closet. Even a Walk-In.

Drew likes to play God in Madeline’s life. He opens and shuts doors. He calls her name from faraway places. He determines if and when she can have a snack, if and when she should get up from her nap, if and when she is allowed to speak. Drew likes to control all of these things. Problem is, he has to get through me first.

Sometimes I listen in on their TV room conversations, and when I say “conversations” I really mean altercations, and I hear Drew saying NO to things just because he can and feels like it. NO, Maddie, do it yoke this. NO, Maddie we can’t watch “Caillou.” NO Maddie, you can’t take my car because…you can’t. (That one is my favorite because I love circular reasoning and because it’s my favorite.)

Drew likes having some sort of authority over Maddie, and in a way, he deserves it. As the oldest, Drew will be expected to set the example, to endure failed parenting techniques, to be protective of his little sister even when she sort of hates him and wants to date the guy with the ear spacer. Drew will have to be a lot in her life, and this means he will have to be a leader. Leaders are one sidestep away from being tyrants, and Drew is still getting his sea legs. I get that. I’m an oldest child too.

When I was about eight years old, my younger sister Elizabeth and I decided that our even younger sister, Bonnie, ought to have her own room. I already had my own room and thought it was a pretty swell deal — a deal everyone should have. The seemingly insignificant detail was that the room Elizabeth and I had prepared for Bonnie was, in fact, her closet. The logic went as follows: Bonnie was the smallest and should therefore occupy the smallest space. We moved the clothes hanging on the bottom rung up to the top so she could lie down in her toddler bed we had shoved inside. You may think that this sounds cruel, but let the record show it was a walk-in closet with a full-size window and built-in cabinets where all of her dolls could be comfortable. Bonnie could even crawl inside the cabinet to play, or sit up on top of the cabinet to be alone with her thoughts and stare out the window on the front yard below. Her new room was basically The Ritz. Liz and I were jealous.

Logically, Bonnie belonged in that closet. Not only was she the youngest, but also she was literally a tiny person. Born at 28 weeks at one pound 12 oz, Bonnie was invisible to the naked eye until she was about four years old, and then her presence was felt only as a soft spring breeze until the age of 10. She wasn’t very loud and wasn’t as obnoxious as Liz, but somewhere along the way, Liz and I had convinced each other that Bonnie living out her childhood in the walk-in closet was best for everyone involved. Including Bonnie.

Problem is, we had to get through Mom first. And, well, we didn’t.

The end.

When I remember myself back then, or see Drew as he is today, it strikes me how all of us must look to God. We try so hard to control the circumstances of our own lives and of other people’s lives — especially our kids! — and we know, we KNOW what is most logical, what is best. It all just makes sense. It is all just so perfectly reasonable. Problem is, we have to get through God first, and thank God there’s a God who is willing to play goalie for all of our logical plans. Too bad we don’t trust him enough.

Whenever Drew tells Maddie that NO she can’t have a yittle drink of milk, or play with his Yightning McQueen or pass through the doorway he is blocking, the most astonishing thing is that Maddie believes him. She cries and protests like he is the defining authority in her life, like I am but a figment of her imagination. Do I allow Drew to direct her movements? Sometimes. Are any of his orders made outside of my loving oversight? Nope. Instead of crying, Maddie should come ask me first. Mine is the voice that matters. I make the final call.

Who is the defining voice in your life? If it is the Drews of the world, or even your own logical self, then you’re in for a life the size of a closet, a life spent staring out of windows on a world that scares you. Don’t settle for that. You were meant for so much more.

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