For a couple of years now, I've been trying to teach Allyson to pray, not explicitly, but by example. At bedtime each night, I pray aloud while she makes suggestions. "Tell him thank you for the birthday party," she'll suggest, or "tell him I hope Sunday school is fun tomorrow."
"Tell him yourself," I say. "You can talk to Jesus, too, you know."
On Monday night came the moment I've been waiting for. Allyson made her own prayer--and it came from her heart!
Because Bill was at the gym, the entire bedtime routine for both kids was left to me, and I was in no mood for it due to a severe bout of insomnia the night before. As you might expect, things did NOT go smoothly. First, Allyson got a time out for unrolling almost an entire roll of toilet paper. As we were both exhausted, things went downhill from there.
After her time out, I read her just one story, which was another bone of contention. After the story, I tried to hurry her into bed, but she resisted. "Where's Allum?" she asked.
I had to ask which Allum she meant because she has taken to naming all of her dolls and stuffed animals Allum lately; it's a variation of Allyson and also of the alyssum flowers that she and Daddy planted recently.
"I mean Puppy!" Allyson explained impatiently.
You might recall, if you've been reading long enough, that Allyson has never become particularly attached to a specific comfort object in the past. Recently, though, I'd begun to suspect that she'd fallen for Puppy/Allum. They've been inseparable ever since the day Sharon, our coworker, gave him to her.
When his batteries are fresh--which is never for long, unfortunately--he makes the most adorable puppy sounds, and he roots his head around and opens and closes his eyes like a real dog. With or without batteries, he's the cutest little thing. Even the airport security scanners loved him, but that's another story.
Anyway, on Monday night my suspicions were confirmed: Puppy has become indispensable.
"Here, why don't you sleep with Baby?" I suggested calmly, handing her the little doll that was a common companion before Puppy joined the family.
"No! I want Allum!"
"Look, here's the little angel. Remember, she says, 'Now I lay me down to sleep.'"
"No! I want Allum. We have to find him."
Fervently longing for Bill, who's much better at finding things, I helped Allyson make a thorough search of the house, but there was no sign of the adorable puppy.
Back in the room, Allyson began methodically throwing all her stuffed animals into their net on the wall--where only the unpopular ones live. "Maybe Puppy is in the pile," she said hopefully. After we'd sorted through about 37 dogs, whales, angels, snakes, and baby dolls, we reluctantly admitted defeat.
"Maybe you left him at Denise's," I said wearily.
"No, I was holding him when Daddy dried my hair after my bath," she said. She looked up at the ceiling, deep in thought. "Maybe that was last night," she concluded. "I MIGHT have left him at Miss Denise's. Can you call and ask her if I left him?" There was a glimmer of hope in her voice, and I hated to dash it.
"We can't call Miss Denise tonight, Sweetie. She's probably putting Joseph to bed right now. We'll have to call tomorrow."
Allyson heaved a giant sigh, and I was ready to do a dance if it would make her happy. Suddenly, I remembered the song Ethan had improvised the night before in the car. When he sang his version of "Don't Worry, Be Happy," Allyson shrieked and snorted with laughter.
I did my best imitation of Ethan's silly singing style: "Don't worry about an Allyson! 'Cause every little Puppy, is gonna be alright!"
Allyson immediately broke into sobs. She threw herself on the floor and literally wept. I felt tears welling in my own eyes, but maybe it was just the fact that I'd been up until 2:45 the night before.
"Honey, I'm afraid there's nothing we can do until tomorrow. I'm sure we'll find him. Do you want another animal to sleep with for tonight?"
Her muffled "no" was barely audible; her face was still buried in her arms.
"Well, it's time for bed. I'll pray with you and sing if you want me to."
I tenderly lifted her, still sobbing, and laid her on her tiny toddler bed.
I rubbed her back with one hand and laid my other hand softly on her heaving chest. "Lord, you know that Allyson is very sad," I prayed. "And you know exactly where Allum is. Please help Allyson to feel peaceful tonight, and please help us find Allum soon. Please help Allyson not to be sad."
When I'd finished my prayer, Allyson was quiet for a moment. Then she said, "I just want to know where Allum is. If he's at Miss Denise's, it's okay. We can get him tomorrow. I just want to know he's safe."
"How about if I send Miss Denise a text message on her phone? Maybe she'll get the message and let us know if he's over there."
Allyson brightened. "Will you tell me if she says he's there?"
"Yes, I promise."
I started to leave, but Allyson asked if we could pray one more time. I started to pray aloud, but Allyson interrupted. "Jesus, please take care of Allum. If Miss Denise and Mr. Michael and even Joseph are not home, and Allum is by himself, please be with him and keep him safe. And help him not be scared." She concluded with a catch in her voice, "Amen!"
Luckily, the darkness hid my smile; I was grinning from ear to ear, not because her prayer was so cute, but because I suddenly realized that Allyson had prayed on her own for the very first time. I brushed away the tears on my cheeks and headed downstairs to look for my purse.
Instead of my purse, guess what I found on the kitchen counter? There was Allum, right in plain sight! I scooped him up and raced back upstairs.
"Guess what I found?" I sang out. "It's Allum!!"
"Thank you, Jesus!" Allyson said. She clutched her beloved puppy close to her chest, and for once she settled right down.
As I left the room, though, she called out, "Thank you, Mama!"
"Thank you, Jesus!" I said quietly.