There’s always runner up

Isaiah John, at two years old, was born to be a last child. If you are trying to get something accomplished, he hurls his body against your legs, slings his arms upward, and begs to be held. If there is anything sharp or spillable near the counter’s edge, he will lay hold of it and do his worst. If his brother has a toy, he wants it. If there is a chair or box or table within reach, he will climb it. If there are clothes stacked and waiting to be put away, he will plow into them. He is rambunctious and demanding, stubborn and willful, in need of every prayer a parent can muster if he is to reach Heaven, or, if that’s asking too much, his fifth birthday.

Riding with Isaiah is a special treat, because he is smart enough to know that when you are in the front and he is in the very back of the minivan, you haven’t an implement long enough with which to whack him. He raises a particular kind of hell in the back of that minivan. Squawking because he wants to look at one of the books he has thrown to the floor. Taking his seat-belt straps and pushing against them while forcing out an unholy growl of frustration at his confinement. Harassing whichever of his brothers is unfortunate enough to have Isaiah duty. I don’t see why the U.S. government had to torture all those prisoners; they could have forced them to drive a sleepy Isaiah John Woodlief to the grocery store. Then again, maybe that would also be a violation of the Geneva Convention against torture.

Which is why it was such an unexpected and pleasant surprise to cruise down the road in peace yesterday. Sometimes, I thought to myself, God is kind and loving enough to put tranquility into the hearts of all my sons at the same time. There was Caleb, studying a book. There was Isaac, playing softly with his lamby. There was Eli, gazing forward and thinking Eli thoughts.

And there was Isaiah, standing on his car seat, fingers and nose pressed to the window, watching people in the cars we passed, more than one of them likely dialing the Highway Patrol to report a baby on the loose inside that minivan driven by neglectful parents.

Guess I can kiss Father of the Year goodbye again.


  1. Carl Holmes

    When Jacob was about 2 years old somehow he figured out how to unclasp his restraints. The time I first caught on to this was in the middle of a Colorado snowstorm of epic proportions and I was white knucling and praying all the way home. I could not get off the road for a good 5 minutes and all the while yelled and screamed… By the time I pulled over he figured out how to put himeself back in the seat and buckle. Not my proudest moment. However, buying a new car seat was never less painful to my wallet the next day.

  2. Corrie

    That is the most hilarious thing I’ve read in a while. I have an Isaiah, too–he’s 17 months and not yet that much of a holy terror, thank goodness. 🙂

  3. Amy

    SO funny, Tony! We have a bit of experience with a “willful” child. Gabriel, at 4, in his fury at not being allowed to go to kindergarten with his older brother, would unbuckle his carseat in the moving vehicle. Paul has a lovely story about a battle of wills that involved pulling over and reading a novel for a very long time until the child decided to stop screaming and buckle back up.

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