I was simply trying to get Andy to play.
He was sitting on my lap, in the bleachers of the gym of St. John’s United Methodist Church. We were going through our Tuesday-Thursday ritual of dropping him off at Mother’s Day Out, when he started acting like a scared 3 year old, instead of the typical, “It’s-my-world, get-out-of-the-way” three year old.
Everything had been fine up until the point of actually getting him in the room with his teachers and the other children. He had on his Sonic sunglasses, his bear, Apple, and his coat. He didn’t mind not having his cowboy hat and took his time doing everything. He took his time putting Apple into Joey’s car seat. He took his time getting into his own car seat. Getting out of the car… he took his time. He was on Andy Time.
I suspected nothing at all. Then we got to his classroom, and he took off. “I want to go home…” I chased him down the hall of St. John’s and finally stopped. I realized that if I chased him, he would run. So I sat down in a chair outside the director’s office and let him come to me. He did.
Climbing up into my lap he made it clear that he didn’t want to stay. We just sat there for several minutes and I reminded him that not only would he be safe, but that Jesus was watching over him as well.
He finally consented to going to his room and I thought I was in the clear. Andy had other plans. He didn’t want to give up Apple, even though the class was heading for the gym. I finally convinced him to give up Apple and I carried him to the gym behind the rest of the class. As the teacher threw out the balls to play with, I hoped to get him interested in playing and he would feel comfortable letting me head for the office.
That did happen, but not before the unintended consequence. We were sitting on the bleachers when one of his friends brought us a ball. His friend wanted to play with Andy, and was trying to help me. I tried to get Andy to take the ball, but he wouldn’t.
So I took the ball and hit it up into the air. His friend brought it back. “Andy, watch. Let me try and hit the ceiling with the ball.” I hit it again. His friend ran after it and brought it back. I hit it again. One of the other children brought me her ball to hit. I did so. Next thing you know, all the children were bringing me their balls, asking me to hit theirs into the air so they could chase them down and bring them back. I had 10 or 15 children doing this over and over again.
Before long, Andy vacated my lap to play with some of the other children, and two little girls climbed up into my lap. I kept thinking to myself, “don’t these children get loved at home?” The two girls were precious, but seemed to just want me to hold them. Do their fathers love on them? How could they be so wanting of love? They were darlings.
I let them crawl in my lap and just sit there as I hit the balls for other children. I finally asked Andy, “is it alright if I go to the office now?”
His standard reply, “Four more minutes.” OK, I could hold out for four more minutes. I couldn’t help but enjoy every moment with these children. It was an unexpected bright spot in the day.
A few moments later, Andy grabbed the hand of one of the younger boys. He had done the same thing on Tuesday, when the boy was crying. He looked up at me and let me know I could go to work. He was happy and content again. I gave him a hug… and them the little boy who’s hand he was holding, and then one of the little girls, and another little girl. I had to give out about five hugs before I could leave. Once they were content, I headed for the door.
By the way, my intern Fred has just told me that it is International Hug Day. So if you see an international, give them a hug!