One Sunday a month, I help out with toddlers in our church nursery. Volunteering in the nursery is an important task, but my responsibilities aren’t what you’d call taxing.
As part of my duties, I read aloud an abbreviated Bible story. Then, I assist the kids with a craft.
If we have any additional time, we break out Legos or Playdough. Last week, the minister—as he always does—directed parents of young children to designated helpers who would take their kids to the playroom.
Four-year-old Teddy and his two-year-old brother Nathaniel scanned the back of the sanctuary. Full of hope, the boys searched for the young and pretty 35 and under volunteers.
Alas, their eyes fell on me.
Teddy and Nathaniel rebounded quickly from their disappointment; they always do. Without protest, they followed me to the colorful room that awaited them downstairs.
We read about Nicodemus. The words “Pharisee” and “Sanhedrin” didn’t interest the boys. What did catch their ears was Nicodemus—the name.
Younger brother Nathaniel did his best to master the pronunciation. “Nicemus,” he said, and then, “N-demus.” Finally, in a decisive “this works for me” tone, he went with “Nick.”
Teddy rolled the name around in his head. He tried ever so hard, but he could not think of one person he knew named Nicodemus.
I was just relieved we weren’t studying a name like Mahershalalhashbaz from the Old Testament. And, no, I did not make that one up.
Happy to have solved the mystery of the name Nicodemus, the brothers hopped onto chairs and scooted close to the table. I gave them wooden styluses to scratch color onto paper crosses. As they fashioned their works of art, they shared important information.
Teddy pointed to a good-sized scab on his upper lip and said, “See this? I did a wheelie and hit my face on the bump on the driveway.”
That bump must have been the curb. It mattered not; I hurt just hearing it.
“My dad had a bike wheck (wreck) once,” Teddy said. “He scrwatched his arms and legs and there was blood—just like my blood.”
Not wanting the conversation to get bloodier, I said, “Hey, are you two excited to get a baby sister? She’ll be here soon, won’t she? Next month.”
“Yeah,” they said.
They sounded like they’d heard enough about that baby sister. But I didn’t give up.
“Do you know what your sister’s name will be,” I said.
“Nah,” they said.
The boys didn’t take their eyes off of their papers. They scratched away with their styluses bringing reds, blues, pinks, and purples to life.
“But we’re getting a puppy, too!” said Teddy.
Just so you know, a puppy is way better than a sister.
I couldn’t keep my mind from filling with images of a four-year-old, a two-year-old, a newborn, and a puppy. Once upon a time, I had three children under four and a well-trained dog—no new puppies.
I shot up a quick prayer for Teddy and Nathaniel’s mom. After all, we were in church.
“Do you know what we’re going to name our puppy?” Teddy asked.
“Lucy? Charlie? Molly?” I guessed.
“No,” Teddy said. “We’re gonna name our puppy Nathaniel!”
“Nathaniel?” I questioned. Nathaniel didn’t appear surprised.
“Nathaniel is your brother,” I said.
“I know,” said Teddy. “When I yell, ‘Here, Nathaniel’ and ‘Come home, Nathaniel,’ Nathaniel will come, and I’ll say, ‘I’m not calling you, I’m calling the puppy.’”
I laughed. I laughed out loud. I could not help but wonder if Steve Martin, Robin Williams, and Jerry Seinfeld started their careers at age four.
Later, we made towers with blocks—puppy names long forgotten. Or so I thought.
Putting a final block in place, the usually quiet Nathaniel said, “I’m gonna name the puppy Teddy.”
Keep your eyes out for Teddy and Nathaniel. They may be the next great comedy team.
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