Stiff-necked | Mark’s Remarks

marksI had read about God calling the Jewish folks “stiff-necked” people in Exodus. Over the years I had heard the term used many times. Through context clues, I had figured out what it meant.

But just for the heck of it, I looked up the term “stiff-necked” and I found that it means haughty or stubborn.

Yes, I’m admitting that I have been stiff-necked quite often. It takes very little for me to puff up and be haughty about something. My wife loses her keys. Stiff-necked, I say “Well, I always try to hang mine on the hook near the back door.”

My kids are rushing around at the last minute, trying to find book bags and other things. “Plan ahead,” their stiff-necked father says.

Stiff-necked people can barely nod their head in an understanding way when we hear things like this. It’s nearly impossible.

I am pretty sure I would let a truck run over me sometimes rather than admit I was wrong about something. I’d really be stiff after that.

Early Sunday morning, our 2-year-old padded into our bedroom. Her mother and I are staunch, stiff-necked and adamant about how to raise children.

We loved on our children a lot. We rocked them. We smothered them with kisses. We read to them and played with them. We plunked their rear ends down in the “time out” corner plenty of times and sometimes we just plunked their rear ends.

One of the things we tried to be particularly diligent about was keeping them out of our bed. They must learn to be content in their own beds. They must not get into the habit of sleeping in our bed.

But we have been a little lenient with this last one. There’s something about having a child when you are in your 40s. You pick your battles. You lower your expectations. You get tired.

Now, don’t get me wrong. In my daughter’s defense, she’s done a great job. She sailed through potty training with pastel colors (one notch down from flying, primary colors). She spends most nights in her own bed and wakes up in there, too.

Once in awhile, though, she pads into our room and scales the side of the bed with the prowess of a mountain climber. It’s the same pattern. She wriggles in between us. She complains that she isn’t covered up. She says “Daddy, you’re squishing me.” Then, with a contented sigh, she settles down back to sleep. Sometimes, if sleep doesn’t come right away, she sings.

Sunday morning was no different. Here she comes. She hopped up in the bed and started her usual routine. Now I’m sure both my wife and I think the other person is going to get up out of bed and carry her back in there. We’ve done it before. I mean, my wife has done it before. I’m the pushover. My wife is more stiff-necked than I am.

But, I suppose Sunday morning we both thought we’d just let her wriggle her way in. We abandoned our stiff-necked ways for a few more minutes of peaceful slumber. I mean, Sunday is a day of rest after all.

I dutifully inched over to the side of the bed. My 6-foot-4-inch frame barely stays on the bed as I try to rearrange my pillow to accommodate the queen. After four kids, I still can’t figure out how a little person can take up that much room.

Surely I won’t be able to fall back to sleep. But yes, sleep comes again. Even in that position, my head crooked and my body tensed up to avoid toppling off the bed, I manage to fall back asleep.

About an hour later, I wake up. My body feels funny. I feel a little like a contortionist must feel after a good entanglement. I have difficulty moving quickly and turning around.

And, you guessed it. I have a stiff neck.



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Mark Tullis

Mark is a 25-year veteran teacher teaching in Columbia. Originally from Fairfield, Mark is married with four children. He enjoys reading, writing, and spending time with his family, and has been involved in various aspects of professional and community theater for many years and enjoys appearing in local productions. Mark has also written a "slice of life" style column for the Republic-Times since 2007.
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