Remember when going to places like Chuck E. Cheese (or back in my day, Showbiz Pizza) was the end-all, be-all of birthday parties? And then we got older and too cool for that... our parents would take us somewhere more "adult" like Pizza Hut or a Chinese buffet. We'd be all cool about it, but deep down we just missed the "mouse house" (which is what my wife and I call Chuck E. Cheese when we don't want the boys to know what we're talking about).
Today we celebrated Daniel's 2nd Birthday at Chuck E Cheese. It's actually a lot cheaper to just bring in a cake and order pizza than it to do an official party through them, which seemed like a good idea at first. Then when we got there we could barely find a table because 19 birthdays were being celebrated there during the afternoon.
So you can imagine what kind of chaos it was. Boys and girls running all over the place, babies crying at the sight of a large mouse walking around, parenting fainting in the tubes do to the lack of oxygen as they search for their kids, dogs and cats living together... mass hysteria.
And yet in the midst of it all was a cute little two-year old (and his older four-year old brother) who fully participated.
Two years old... which brings me back to two years ago.
Daniel was born fine. At least, to begin with. A few hours into things, though, the nurse began to notice his breathing was irregular. Soon he went from being in our room to being in a special room where they could monitor his breathing. They put this little shield over his head so he'd have a pure supply of oxygen, not to mention a tube down his throat so that he could receive nutrition/food.
They hooked a monitor up that would beep when things went below normal. That thing would beep all the time, and it drove me mad. We weren't even allowed to pick him up... the best we could do would be to touch him. And so that's what we would do... hold our hands on his chest and let him know we were there for him.
"Daddy's here, buddy... daddy's here... I love you... I love you..."
In times like this, people try to comfort you and say things like, "It's normal... lots of kids go through this..." and so on. But all you feel as a parent in those moments is the weight of uncertainty.
- "Will my son be able to live a normal life?"
- "God, did I do something wrong? Is this the product of my sin?"
- "Are people I asked to pray REALLY praying hard or did they just say they would?"
- Why won't anyone commit to telling us SOMETHING?!?!"
Today my 2-year old Daniel and my 4-year old Joshua ran around Chuck E. Cheese together with a bunch of their friends. Up and down slides, ride after ride, token after token, ticket after ticket. And my wife and I thought, "How blessed are we?"
Meanwhile, I heard through my mother-in-law's prayer chain about a girl named Grace who was born on Thursday. She weighed in at 7 pounds, 9 ounces. Everything looked good.
And then... she had trouble breathing. Her parents took her to a local hospital. Now the doctors are theorizing that she may have brain damage and might possibly even become blind. They're even talking about creating artificial ways for her to breathe... ways that will affect Grace and her family for a long time.
I wonder - would you pray with me for this little girl? And I don't mean that "Christian" thing we do where we say, "Yeah, I'll pray for her!" and then do a 5 second thought prayer, but like the kind of prayer that a parent would pray for her. I don't know her, and I probably might never meet her on this side of heaven. But I know my Daniel and Joshua, and I'm sure you know someone close to you in a similar way. Perhaps we might find a way to personalize a prayer for this little girl. Maybe through some supernatural means... she might hang out with Chuck E. Cheese one day, too.
Or maybe even Jesus.
- "Children are a gift from the Lord. They are a reward from him. Children who are born to people when they are young are like arrows in the hands of a soldier." (Psalm 127:3-4)