I've been trying to write this blog post for a year and a half.
This is what happens when you want to summarize your baby in a blog post. This is what happens when she defies summarization (as does any human, but she's sure proof of that truth).
Madeline woke up Saturday morning with a mind on fire. I love the way children do that. Certain naps, certain sleeps, seem to have perfectly prepared the brain to explode into activity. And Saturday morning she awoke (between Chris and I, as she has many, many days of her life) and spoke lucidly, as if she'd been awake for hours: "Mom. Mom. Why did God make mosquitos?"
Now all God-fearing Southerners (and I hear it's also true of a good number of Minnesotans) ask themselves this question regularly, and particularly at the onset of the warm months. It is a rite of passage, and it's a question that is particularly relevant in the early morning. You lie there, a little warmer than you would like, a little too lazy to toss the blanket off, suddenly realizing that you got bit the night before as you sat on the porch appreciating that winter was gone. And now you're too warm and too itchy and you're wondering why God allowed any of this to happen.
Well, it was sin, clearly. Sin came into the world and with it: mosquitos. The evil little demon embodiments of sin and brokenness. So as I lay there, gathering my thoughts to explain this questionable theology to my six year old, she answered her own question. In the quiet she said this: "I think it was because we need to have pain, sometimes. Sometimes, we need to feel pain."
I wish I could tell you that I immediately got to the bottom of this; that I pursued her thinking and found the roots. But I was tired and bleary eyed, and instead I just tried not to cry. Because it's certainly no worse theology than mine, and it rings more true.
When I tell you what happened next, you'll think I'm stringing together stories into one memory, trying to make a saint of this child. Trust me that it's not true, and she's no saint. But the next thing she asked me for was the birthdate of the homeless man who regularly attends our church. She wanted to be sure we remembered Carl's birthday, as she thought it unlikely that others would.
"...unless you change and become like little children..."
But I said she's no saint, and it's true. While she does, at times, remind us that the kingdom of God belongs to such as these, she can also be an unmitigated disaster. Her pout is vicious. She often feels that her strong feelings merit her exemption from any activity that doesn't suit her. I can't imagine where that one comes from. Messes aren't clear to her; cleaning doesn't come naturally. (This stands out among those of us who lack certain lucky Lareau genes, so I try to give her tutoring on the side). She can become deeply angry at perceived slights - including a lack of a smiley face on a worksheet, or even an "x" next to an incorrect answer. She is quick to yell and quick to cry and hell hath no fury like Madeline scorned.
But oh, the flip side. She is the one who asks me how my meeting went and she is truly sorry if any of us is sick. She cries if her sister cries. She looks for her daddy at 5:30 in the morning and her disappointment is deep when she realizes he's left for an early game of soccer. She loves each of us like we're the only one in the world. And I know exactly where she got that.
Thank you, dear God, for letting us have this girl. Keep her safe - from herself, from our mistakes, and from the things that will break her heart. Keep her strong, so that she can be the amazing conduit of your love that you built her to be.