Some things cannot be duplicated with words. I can’t adequately describe the experience of moving internationally, for all adjectives for the sights, sounds, and smells fall short. Suffice it to say we uprooted our family from rural America to metropolitan Asia.
And we took along a two-year-old. Suddenly, the following will make perfect sense – no matter where you live.
It wasn’t that our two-year-old was a bad child, but she was just a hard age. Unlimited energy, endless curiosity, and budding independence are natural for this stage. I’m sure potty training during an international move didn’t help matters.
The first incident began near the pond on the National Taiwan University campus. Like the pool of Bethesda, this had magical qualities as it always seemed to urge Chinese hands toward preschool blondes. Although there always seemed to be a plethora of the former, our girls seemed to be the only ones resembling the latter.
Although our five-year-old didn’t love the attention, the hem of my skirt adequately calmed her fears. Not so with the two-year-old. Her “can-do” attitude came fully equipped with a complete regimen of what another “could-not-do.” (I attributed this to six months prior when her sister put a bean into her ear, necessitating medical removal).
Therefore, one of our two-year-old’s “can-nots” included unknown people touching her hair and/or ear.
In American culture, most strangers will recognize a two-year-old’s clenched fist as a red flag. However, the magnetic force of the pool being what it was (and the fact that no Asian child would consider such a deed), a university student reached for the small, blond head when he should have been blocking his nose. My two-year-old used his nearby face as a punching bag.
The result was immediate punishment and a lengthy lecture. Supposedly, she understood. When we returned to the park the following day, I assumed I’d taught my lesson well but found I had not learned one. As the random Asian hand approached the two-year-old, I gave her my reminder with a meaningful look of warning.
Non-verbal communication was exchanged and acknowledged. There was a slight pause, but preschool literalism being what it is, I found myself wiping two-year-old saliva spray off a pair of stylish designer glasses. She hadn’t hit. She’d just spit.
The result was immediate punishment and a lengthy lecture on the undesirability of sharing your spittle with a stranger. Supposedly, she understood.
On day three, we confined ourselves to our duplex, assuming we would avoid further incidents. However, terrible two’s being stronger than restriction; an altercation quickly ensued between the two sisters.
Moving toward the sound of the conflict, I entered the room to find a preschool ground squall quickly developing. Recounting the ground rules of no hitting and spitting, I attempted to untangle the situation.
While still assessing the facts, I watched as a sudden realization dawned upon the two-year-old. She quietened her two-year-old cry and bolted up the stairs with her sister just seconds behind. Before my husband and I could comprehend what was happening, a loud wail of anguish came from the five-year-old.
To her credit, our two-year-old obeyed. She hadn’t hit. She hadn’t spit. She’d just gassed. “Mom!” our older daughter wailed. “She tooted on my pillow!!!!”
The result was not immediate punishment or a lengthy lecture. There was no long explanation, just long gasps for breath while we wiped away tears of hysteria. We laughed through the entire episode while the girls settled their own argument.
Now supposedly, we understood. We were simply parenting a two-old, which was pure joy at that moment.
Our Father God, Who created parenting after His image, has these same experiences. “He exults over you with joy” (Zephaniah 3:17). What delight when we discover the Hebrew word for exult. This fun word שׂשׂ (sûws) is a duplicated interjection or emphatic exclamation, like “haha.” He sometimes just has to laugh at our immature attempts to fix our surroundings.
Even better is that שׂשׂ (sûws) is an imperfect verb. The Blue Letter Bible describes the tense in this way. “Rather than depicting an action as a single event, the imperfect depicts it as a continuing process. (The imperfect tense) generally designates an action that is continuous, incomplete, or open-ended.” His delight in us keeps erupting into joy!
God’s Word translation rewords this phrase by saying, “He happily rejoices over you.” Why wouldn’t we “enter into the joy of our master?” (Matthew 25:23). Scottish minister Thomas Whitelaw (1840-1917) reminds us that we only “‘joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ’ (Rom. 5:11) when we realize that He for Christ’s sake is well pleased with us.” Hallelujah.
Let’s remember that as His children, He delights in our antics. Sometimes, He must discipline, but sometimes He just has to laugh. Kinda like the last time you tooted on your sister’s pillow.