A Rock Home Companion On What We Want to Be When We Grow Up

Eight o’clock brings honesty in the Rock House as the boys plead for one more story or their favorite pair of pajamas. They ask for “one more minute” to play with light sabers or blasters. “But I’m not tired,” they say, while the weight of the truth drags them into their beds and under their covers. And then, they are still.

I go from bed to bed, hugging each. Ian, tells me that Mary, the mother of Jesus, eventually died. Jude says that there are snakes and spiders in the attic, but that they are good snakes and spiders. Isaac, though, draws truth from questions whispered under the whirr of the box fan.

It is January 11, 2010.

“What do you want to be when you grow up, Daddy?” he asks. Unsure, and ready to make my way downstairs, I dismissively tell him that I already have a profession—that I am grown up. He laughs. “No, I mean when you grow up,” he counters.

He’s looking for dreams and aspirations; he’s asking what could have been.

I tell him that I want to live with some people in a far away land; I want to help them build houses and farm. I want to teach them about prayer and love, and he is quick to say,

“I’ll go with you, but only if you give me a shovel because I don’t know how to build a house. But Bear Grylls can build a shelter in the ground if he has a shovel, and maybe I can help build the people shelters in the ground.”

He closes his eyes, smiling himself to sleep, maybe dreaming of building hypothetical shelters, for hypothetical people, all as a result of a father’s hypothetical grown-up occupation. And I smile, thinking of little African children singing songs and clapping hands happily as Isaac covers a hole in the ground with switchgrass thatching.

It is January 12, 2010.

I do not build houses. I work, and it is one of those days at the office. It is a day where I do not visit www.cnn.com, nor do I answer my cell phone. I work diligently, counting the hours until I make the quiet evening drive home.

I walk in the door, Isaac standing ready to tell me the news: “have you heard about the earthquake?” he asks. I have not, so he leads me into the living room where the television is streaming incomprehensible images of desperation. There are new orphans in Port Au Prince, and they are sitting upturned soil wondering whether their mothers or fathers will rescue them. Baby-holding mothers are wandering the streets looking for fresh water, trying desperately to console the inconsolable. The relief workers are arriving, but they look confused and without a plan. One says that alcohol has run low and that they are cleaning hacksaws with vodka to use as surgical instruments .

As I watch the images, I think that perhaps gardening and shelter building is not all hand holding and happy clapping. It’s calamity and disorganization. It’s unplanned relief. I look at Isaac, unsure what to say to a five year old who is seeing images like this for the first time. He looks at me intently.

“Maybe I should go get a shovel,” he says. And I nod, knowing that faith like a child is honest, indeed.

written by Seth

About me


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the Other Seth
Reply January 19, 2010

don't make me freakin' cry in a coffee shop, Haines. going out to buy a shovel. tell Isaac I'm in.

Ol' Seth
Reply January 19, 2010

That's why I like you, other Seth. We'll get "a hammer and a nail" and learn how to use our hands. Anyone name that quote? Don't judge me...

Reply January 19, 2010

Seth, I changed your name to the Other Seth so it didn't look like this Seth was writing to himself. I mean, we do get a little crazy around here. Thanks for being such a real friend to us.

My Seth, this is such a good post.

Ladies, let's tell them: there's nothing hotter than seeing your husband be a good Daddy. The other night, I sat and watched Seth hold Jude. He played with his hair and just loved him and doted, and I thought it was the very best thing I've seen in a while.

Our boys are secure. I love you, good man.

Southern Fried Gal
Reply January 19, 2010

Beautiful post. I have a 5 year old as well and I'm amazed at what they can open our eyes to. Thanks for sharing.

Reply January 19, 2010

I love this post. And you Amber, and your babies, and your family. Tearing up.

Reply January 19, 2010

Beautiful. I'm crying. I feel so selfish for focusing on ME and my problems this morning, this knocked me back down to reality. I'm in. I've got a shovel. I love your family.

Tammy@If Meadows speak...
Reply January 19, 2010

Where was the *tissue warning*?? So not fair. Who thought I'd tear up over a SHOVEL, R.E.A.L.L.Y.?

Amber so tender a moment and words from your family. By golly, you make me want get my garden tools out.

Lora Lynn
Reply January 19, 2010

Yep. You spoke a good word.

Reply January 19, 2010

This is beautiful. Given the distance between my shovel and the work, I shall dig deeper with my prayers. Thank you for these powerful words.

Cassie Dodson
Reply January 19, 2010

So so good, Seth. I loved this. And a little Indigo Girls never hurt anyone...

Ol' Seth
Reply January 19, 2010

Cassie, you are my favorite commentor of the day. Seriously. That is such a good song.

Reply January 19, 2010

Okay, make me cry! Out of the mouths of babes!

Ann Voskamp
Reply January 19, 2010

I'm coming with Isaac --- I have prayer dreams and a shovel and I know a bit about seeds and dirt and if he could just sing, no matter what, and we could hold each other when we cry... I'm going with him who knows what is to be done.

The children, they lead.

Yes, Amber... your men.

Reply January 19, 2010

I will go, too, Isaac. I shall go buy my shovel today.

Amber, your family is just lovely. What a blessed woman you are.

Reply January 19, 2010

This is one of the best stories ever.

I love y'all so, so, so much.

Reply January 19, 2010

That last line brought the tears on. We don't have a tv out right now (socked away in the closet as we were all a little too addicted...) so the only coverage we've seen has been online. And just us, I hadn't even considered what the kids would think if they saw it, and they're too young (3 & 1 1/2) to really understand our words.
But your little guy has the right attitude. We all need our shovels out right now.

Boy Crazy (@claritychaos)
Reply January 19, 2010

Oh, this image of your little guy and his big heart. (I've got one of those, too. These oldest of three boys.)

It's hard, isn't it? Wanting to protect them and keep their hearts light, but wanting to teach them and honor their innate desires to serve, to help, to nurture the needy?

It guts me, the conflict. I've kept them pretty sheltered. But hearing your story reminds me of the great big capacity of their tiny little selves.

Beautiful message, beautifully written, Seth. Amber -- you're a lucky woman amid your tribe of men.


Reply January 20, 2010

Remember that old song (maybe I'm dating myself here), "If I had a hammer....I'd hammer out love all over this land." I learned it when I was a little girl and I wondered what it meant, but I loved it. And I'm singing it today because of Isaac. And his shovel. Because really he's reminded me that the greatest of these - faith, hope, and love - is love.

    Reply January 20, 2010

    Yes, Deidra! This is awesome because that's the exact song I was singing after reading this. You're so cool. I hope we meet one day.

Kelly Langner Sauer
Reply January 20, 2010

I was just stopping in to leave a hello for Amber, and you have made me cry. "Maybe I should go get a shovel."

There are no words.

Reply January 20, 2010

I adore that Isaac knows who Bear Grylls is. My husband would love that.

I adore more his innocence and faith. I can't wait to have moments similar to this one with our little boy.

Reply January 28, 2010

Isn't it amazing how much children can teach us...if we take the time to listen to their questions, to see through to their hearts?

Thank you for sharing those powerful every-day moments with us.

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