When Maddie was three years old, she climbed onto the top bunk of her and her sister’s bed; crawled across the five-foot-high wardrobe next to it; grabbed the bottle of cough medicine that we’d accidentally left there after a middle-of-the-night dosing; unscrewed the “childproof” cap; and drank enough to make her loopy drunk. We took her to the emergency room, where she spent the night for observation.
After we got over our fear (“Too much cough medicine can cause heart-stopping seizures?!”), it was actually humorous. The doctor asked her to jump on both feet (the toddler version of walking the straight line, I guess). When she flopped over instead, she looked confused. “I’m all twisted up.” When the nurses inserted an IV into her little wrist, she was so high it took a good five minutes for her to notice it. “Daddy!” she said, looking at it with her face scrunched up. “This hurts. What happened?”
Before the hospital would release Maddie the next morning, I had to speak with a social worker. She opened her binder and, pen in hand, asked, “Why was the bottle out in the open? How did she get ahold of it? Where are medicines generally kept in your house?”
Then, “Does Madeleine have any siblings?”
“Yes. Emily is seven, and Maddie has a twin brother, Jake.”
Her pen paused. She capped it, closed the binder, and got to her feet. “She’s a twin, Mrs. Underwood?”
I was confused. “Ye-es.”
She smiled at me. “I hate to tell you this, but I doubt this will be your last trip to the emergency room, Mrs. Underwood. Twins have a way of… well, they…”
She wasn’t sure how to say it, but I knew exactly what she meant. From the time Jake and Maddie were able to crawl, they began collaborating on schemes Emily would never have thought of. They snuck in the fridge so often we put a childproof lock on it, but Maddie figured out how to rip it off. A few days later the two of them walked down the hallway carrying egg cartons, dropping an egg every few steps. Splat. Splat.
Another time I’d run downstairs to grab a load of clean laundry. I carried the basket up the steps of our split-level ranch and stifled a scream when my eyes were floor-level with the kitchen. Somehow they’d opened the dishwasher, and Jake had used it to climb onto the kitchen counter. He’d pulled several apples from the fruit basket, taken a bite out of each, and dropped them on the floor. Maddie had grabbed a sharp knife from the dishwasher. Plopped on the floor, chubby legs spread wide and an apple between them, she was stabbing the fruit with her knife.
I did NOT scream—only because I was afraid Maddie would jump and stab herself.
So I knew what the social worker meant about twins.
Even after they were old enough that I wasn’t so much concerned about them accidentally killing themselves, they could make amazing messes in no-time flat. I taught myself to pause before I entered a room where they’d been “playing.” I would close my eyes and imagine how bad it could possibly be. Then I would walk in. Generally my imagination had created the worse picture (hallelujah for a vivid imagination), and I would say, out loud, as if reassuring myself, “Well, it could be worse.”
I didn’t realize how much I said it until I sent Emily to check on them one day and she came back and said—in a perfect mimic of my tone—“Well, Mommy, it could be worse.”
I’ve gotten out of that habit of dealing with the “mess-ups” in my life, and I’ve decided I should get back into it. I read an essay by G.K. Chesterton a few days ago titled “On Running After One’s Hat” (http://www.catholic-forum.com/saints/gkc16004.htm). He wrote about how silly it is to be frustrated and seriously miffed by mere inconveniences. He suggested the opposite: taking joy and even humor in the moments when things go wrong. He wrote, “An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered.”
I imagine that in heaven toilets won’t clog, and sheets won’t get tangled into knots in the dryer, and long trains won’t cross the tracks just when we have six minutes to make it to a meeting on the other side. But here, those things WILL happen. They have to in a world that’s broken in its core and cracked all the way to its surface. But this is STILL the day God has made for me, and He is not surprised by any “inconveniences” I encounter. In fact, believing as I do that His sovereignty is a truth, there’s an awfully big chance He may have planned them.
And so I can rejoice—because they MUST have purpose; because He knows what those purposes are even when I don’t; because there probably is a funny side to it that I can find if I only look for it;
Because, really, isn’t it true that, almost always, “it could be worse.”