“Daniel! Come quick! Meeka is stuck at the top of a tree!”
My husband drops what he’s doing to dash outside with me.
At the base of the tallest pine on the block, Daniel cranes his neck, “Where? I don’t see her?”
“Just listen. You can hear her mewing. There.”
I point half-way up the towering tree. From behind a spray of long green pine needles peeks the tiny black head of our 3-month-old kitten.
“Meep . . . Meep . . . Meep,” she mews.
Daniel and I exchange helpless looks. We must save her now — but how?
The largest of our three cats, Mischief, worries his way around the tree in tight circles, muttering anxiously under his breath, “Mrrrowww . . . mrrrowww . . . mrrrowww.”
Daniel and I begin talking over each other in panicked fragments:
- “I’ll get a ladder . . .”
- “Maybe we can use a rope to . . .”
- “The tree is too tall . . .”
- “What if you fall . . .”
- “What on earth would you do with . . .”
Meeka’s mewing turns shrill.
“Poor thing, she’s terrified,” Daniel chokes.
“Meeka, honey, we’re . . .” I begin then fall silent, recognizing that the cries of distress have turned into calls of welcome.
While Daniel and Mischief and I are fussing about what to do, our third cat, Munchkin, is taking action.
Munchkin climbs swiftly. But not up the tree Meeka is stuck in. Instead, he ascends the tree next to it. Soon, Munchkin reaches her level. She mews with delight and relief as she looks over at him.
“What’s he going to do?” I ask Daniel, who grew up with cats. “Why didn’t he climb up her tree and carry her down?”
Daniel motions for me to keep quiet as Munchkin climbs down a branch, pauses, looks over and up at Meeka, and meows what sounds like a command.
Meeka’s mewing turns frantic again, but Munchkin meows encouragement. With much protest and many false starts, Meeka scrambles down a branch. As soon as she is at eye level with Munchkin again, he climbs down another branch.
Once more, Meeka’s cries turn pathetic, Munchkin meows up to her, and she slowly makes her way down another level.
Daniel and I look at each other in amazement.
“He’s talking her down,” Daniel says.
Indeed he is.
Branch by branch, Munchkin models Meeka’s next move until both are within arm’s reach.
Daniel lifts Meeka down while I scoop up Munchkin and call to Mischief. We head into the house to celebrate with canned cat food and ice cream.
When it comes to challenging parenting scenarios . . .
- Some of us are like Mischief: we worry and run in circles.
- Some of us are like Daniel and me: we seek an immediate solution to the present problem.
- Some of us do what I wanted to do once everyone was safely inside the house again: we protect them (and my own heart) by never letting any of them outside. Ever. Again.
- Some of us attempt to cut down every tree in the county so there’s no place to get stuck.
How much wiser — albeit harder — to mother the way Munchkin mentored Meeka.
To intentionally come alongside.
Be present, at eye level.
Model the next move.
Wait through the inevitable fussing, false starts, and failures.
And then, do it all over again.
The way God does with us.
I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.
Psalm 32:8 (NIV)
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