Messing Up The Nativity

I was a little sad when I found it.

I walked into our dining room to turn the little light on in our Nativity display, yesterday afternoon, and this is what I found-

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At first glance you might add everything up and realize this Nativity is on target. Cow? Check. Donkey? Check. Lamb? Check. Mary and Joseph? Check. Baby Jesus? Check. Angel? Check. Looks like all the figurines are accounted for. But what’s a rooster doing in there? And a chicken’s nest with eggs? I don’t seem to recall that being part of the story. Here’s a closer shot in case you missed it…

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The reason I was sad when I came upon our Nativity was this:

It used to get really messed up! I mean, really, really messed up. My 4-year old son is packed full of curiosity and can’t keep his hands off of anything. In past years, he could not keep his hands off of our Nativity display. There were days when we would find Mary lying outside of the Nativity, face down, and Baby Jesus in an entirely different room of the house sitting in the driver’s seat of a bulldozer or monster truck. So much for theological soundness!

I actually had a moment of sadness when all I found was a plastic rooster, nest of eggs, and no figurines moved around. For as frustrated as I get when my kids wreck things in our house, I lamented quietly for a moment as I stood staring at the display. “He’s growing up,” I realized.

And then, I questioned myself. “Did all of my demanding that he not touch our Nativity sink in so much that this adventurous part of his childhood was now gone?” “Did my lecturing on how fragile the pieces are and how this isn’t a toy, formulate a concrete ‘keep curiosity to a minimum‘ attitude that he’ll now carry into adulthood?”

I know, I know! Children need boundaries. They must understand that things are breakable and irreplaceable. There are rules that need to be enforced! But, to what degree? How far do we take it? Until their adventurous spirit is squelched? Until their passion is dried up? Until their childlike wonder is dictated by a ‘will I get scolded for this,’ fear?

I’ll never forget the day, a few years back, when my daughter brought home a picture of her hand prints with poem attached that moved me to tears. This is what it said- “Sometimes you get discouraged because I am so small.  And always leave my fingerprints on furniture and walls.  But everyday I’m growing I’ll be grown up someday, and those tiny handprints will surely fade away.  So here’s a final handprint just so you can recall, exactly how my fingers looked when I was very small.”

Truthfully, I kind of miss the messed up Nativity. I’m saddened that I didn’t have to go on a search for Baby Jesus this time. I suddenly wish my son wasn’t growing up so fast. I fear that next year, I may find nothing messed up at all. As weird as it sounds, I was subtly joyful to find Baby Jesus in the driver’s seat of a toy combine or Joseph attending a tea party with a Power Ranger!

Question- Are there things your children do that frustrate you now but you will miss someday when their grown up?

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