“How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!” – Matthew 23:37b
When my three year old comes running over to drag me to make a “Baba Fort”, it is music to my ears. He still loves to be close and to feel the safety of the Baba Fort.
“What is a “Baba Fort”?” … I’m glad you asked. :o)
In its simplest form a Baba Fort is when my son lays on the couch and I am over him on my hands and knees. (Sort of like a mix between a “Child’s Pose” and the “cat” of “Cat/Cow” in Yoga, with my son underneath.) My head usually rests on the arm of the couch.
Some variations are that my hand can be a window that he can ask to open or close to look out or we may put a blanket over my back. While my seven year old will sometimes join him for a double wide fort (which probably looks quite awkward, but the goal isn’t truly that they are in the fort, but that they “feel” like they are in the fort). The variation that best involves all three boys (including the 11 year old), is the “Attack Baba Fort”. The “Attack Baba Fort” would be better named the “Defensive Baba Fort”, but “Attack” sounds cooler. For this variation one of the boys (usually the youngest is in the Baba Fort. The other two boys are attacking in various ways and the one in the fort is kept safe. They may be trying to tag him or shoot him with toy tarts, but the Baba Fort (aka: me) blocks and pushes them away with my outside hand or foot. Another may be that they are climbing on top of the Baba Fort while the little one is kept safe inside. One variation that is a little different is “Escape from the Baba Fort” (more like a prison). For this, they are in the Baba Fort and I close it up fairly well (depending on their age), and they try to wiggle their way out (and then come in and try again). We have all sorts of variations that develop. The point is that the youngest (or youngest two) feel the closeness and safety of being with their “Baba” (me), and the others get the fun of wrestling, attacking, etc.
It is also nice that I can have conversations with the child in the Baba Fort and they feel that they are all alone in a safe world with me (although we are in the middle of the living room in the middle of the house).
The “Baba Fort” was discovered by accident one day. I was exhausted to the point of hardly being able to keep my eyes open and my youngest two children wanted to play. I don’t remember exactly how, but out of that the “Baba Fort” was born. I could close my eyes and just be there while all of the boys were busy either being in the fort, or climbing on the fort.
While I don’t have girls, perhaps it could be a “Baba Cloud Castle”. Really, it could be anything as long as the story is set into their imaginations (Baba Tank, Baba Cave, Baba House, etc.).
Now, I do want to caution that the “Baba Fort” should be coupled with other, more intentionally involved activities and not just as a way to justify lazy parenting, but it is great for some quiet time to be close with young children… or when you can hardly keep your eyes open.
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In Matthew 23:37, while Jesus is lamenting over Jerusalem, he reflects, “How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!” The heart of Christ is to be close to his children. Like a mother hen protects her defenseless chicks.
I know my desire to provide for and protect my children, to have them trust me and to provide for them while providing opportunities for them to grow. (As imperfect as my provision and protection are)
To Christ, I am the helpless child. Do I run to him, hunger for time with him in His word? Do I cast my cares on him (for he cares for me) (1 Peter 5:7)? Or do I try to make life work on my own plans and efforts? Christ longs to gather me into his gentle care.
One day the Baba Fort helped me to see Christ’s desire for us, to be close, to protect and provide, to be our source of strength and life.
I need to learn to live in the “Baba Fort” of my Heavenly Father, and to point to the true Fortress, who rules over the heavens and the earth.
A note to fathers: Whether your children are young enough for the “Baba Fort” or are older, we can be there to cover them with unconditional love and the sacrificial gift of time and connection. How are we doing at lovingly discipling our children as we point them to Christ?