Tonight was our weekly family night, an evening set aside to spend time with the kids and improve our family relationships through activities and instruction. However, more often than we’d like, it’s actually the only family argument to open and close with prayer (as songwriter Michael Mclean once lamented). Nevertheless, we persist. We trust that the habit alone serves as an adhesive to help our kids feel like they belong to something important as they grow and prepare to face the world on their own.
Tonight was contentious, probably because of me. Honestly, I didn’t feel like “playing.” I was in an emotional slump and my head ached (a Law of Rhythm thing). But because it has long been established as a weekly tradition, my kids began asking me what we were going to be doing that evening. Trying to brush the topic aside until I could rest my headache away, my answer was simply, “I just don’t know yet.”
My 12 year-old begged me to take them to the park for dodge ball… a family favorite. My 15 year-old had too much homework so we compromised and played some in the back yard with him first. Then he was back to the books and the rest of us headed off to the park for some more serious battles.
I loosened up, forgot my headache. Eventually I got off the swingset with the baby and began playing dodge ball, too. Holding the baby helped… the family was gentle when tossing it in my direction, and I won at least one of the rounds. There was still the usual sibling-to-sibling bickerings, but I believe everyone had plenty of fun.
Finally it was time to go home. We gathered to the van and Trevan (my husband) realized that the keys had been locked inside. Nathan suggested we call Jacob to drive them over. But our other set of keys had already disappeared months ago and since we never needed the second set, we had never troubled ourselves with finding or replacing it. Besides, Jacob isn’t old enough to drive.
Trevan suggested we say a prayer. We huddled together and he asked God to allow the door to somehow be unlocked so that we wouldn’t have to walk the mile home. Then he said, “But if not, help us to enjoy the walk.”
The front passenger window was cracked about 2 1/2 inches. First we tried to see if any of the kids’ arms were skinny enough and long enough to reach the door lock. No good.
In the front window laying in front of a couple books, we spotted a mechanic’s wire claw thing (about two feet long, used for grabbing little things that get dropped inside an engine). I asked Trevan where the keys were and he said they were in the passenger cup holder in the center console. I asked if he thought that wire grabber would be long enough to reach them but it looked pretty short compared to how far we’d have to reach.
It was the only remotely possible option at that point, so we got to work trying to obtain that claw. None of us could reach it through the window crack. Kayli suggested we use one of the badminton rackets that we had brought with us. We first tried to use it to pull the lock up (to no avail). Then we tried to use it to bring the claw closer, but there was a big “Jane Eyre” book on the dash and in the way.
The window opening was about 2.5 inches wide at the top, but only about 1.5 inches at the front bottom – the closest opening to the front dash where the claw rested. Trevan pulled the window down to give me an additional 1/2 inch or so, and though I couldn’t reach the claw, I realized I could reach the dash mat. So I grabbed it and pulled it toward me until the claw was within reach.
Next we had to use the claw to reach the keys. But no matter who tried, the closest we could get to the cup holder with that claw was at best 4 inches. We were SO CLOSE! How can we get that close, have so much success getting this far only to have our efforts fail now? There had to be a way.
Trevan discovered that if a person could be elevated, their arm could get into that window opening better and reach a little farther. But there wasn’t anything to stand on except the wheel, two feet to the right of where we needed to be. Long story short, we got those keys. After quite a few attempts, we found the perfect combination:
After Trevan and then Nathan tried, I took my turn standing on the wheel, leaning 45 degrees onto Trevan to the left. Nathan supported me from behind so I wouldn’t fall backwards off of Trevan. Trevan also pulled the window down enough for me to get my forearm in, and then miraculously my elbow passed through. I was able to reach in far enough to use the grabber to get the keys and bring them out. For a moment there I felt as if my arm might break before having the chance to carefully bring it back out, being in all the way in like that, two feet off the ground leaning at that precarious angle.
Gratefully it all worked out. After a round of “high-fives” we paused to give thanks, and tried to help the kids see that everything we needed had been there all along… we just had to ask, and then get to work finding the right combination. Every failure along the way led us to think of the next idea, one after the other until we found the solution. One thing that we did NOT do, was fret and fuss, moan and complain. We’ve learned that solutions are best (and sometimes ONLY) discovered by a person who is at peace.
I believe all of life’s challenges can be approached and conquered in the same way: Ask for what you want, be prepared to accept “no” for an answer, (be at peace here and now) and then get to work finding the way to make the desired results a reality.
The solution WAS there all along, but only became apparent after a series of frustrating attempts. If we had given up at any point along the way, we would not have discovered it. Not until we had exhausted all possibilities would we have finally tightened our shoelaces and started home on foot… but in any case, our family night was a success because we were unified, if only for 20 or 30 minutes, for a common purpose. It felt great! Coming together like that to solve a problem as a family turned out to be ten times more gratifying than the best game of dodgeball could ever be.
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