A couple of stories about my children that illustrate they are far more capable of understanding complex deep issues than I give them credit for.
Several years ago, I took my kids to church. Like most eight and nine-year-olds, getting all gussied up and sitting through boring meetings is not on the top of their to-do list. (Many, church services to me, feel like voluntary euthanasia.)
Anyway, I believe an introduction to the spiritual side of life is important and Kai (my son) and Mackey (my daughter) appease this gray haired old mam. I feel it is my parental responsibility to expose them to as much as possible, allowing them to learn, choose and grow into well-rounded adults. So we go and I am most always amazed at the joy they feel afterwards than the strife and angst I feel beforehand.
So one Sunday as they were giving me massive grief, I challenged them to try to find one positive thing or message during Sunday School that would make them a better person.
After Sunday school I saw Kai standing in the hall with a grin on his face. I asked “how was your lesson?” He said “I do not know; this is what I did instead.” He then handed me this piece of paper. On it I read the words written in an oddly shaped column, Kind, brAve, faIthful, exCellent, Obedient, lOyal, awesoMe, best and honeSt.
I read it. I said, “wow — that is a list of positive words.” He looked at me and grinned. I sensed I was not getting the entire story. He then said, “Dad do you know what it says?” I looked at it again. Still wanting to stay positive and not deflate his enthusiasm, I asked, “is this your attempt at the Scout Law?” I was prepared to help him fix it. He smiled and said “no, Dad. It is not the Scout Law — it is better.”
So I looked at the paper once more. All I saw was a list of positive adjectives written by a child with what I thought was awkward hand writing, capitalization and formatting. I could not figure it out. He just kept beaming up at me with his inquisitive eyes. I looked one more time. Then I saw it. It jumped up and slapped me in the face. There it was, big as life, my son affirming his self-worth in such a creative, clever way. I could not help but give him the biggest man-hug.
I know I am not the most objective person, but what 9-year-old thinks like this? Talk about comprehending and crushing my challenge. Just flat out love this kid.
A few years ago one Sunday morning while coming home from church, I asked Kai (10 at the time) and Mac (8 at the time) what they learned in Sunday school. Mac, sitting in the front seat (after all, she was first to the truck), animatedly shows me a picture (with few colors… the teachers’ fault, I’m sure) she colored and blurts out “We learned about Abraham and Isaac.”
Then with a fascination for the morbid she says, “Oh yeah dad — look at the dagger in Abraham’s hand. Did you know that Abraham was told to KILL his own son?” She was gruesomely into it, probably a bit too much so. I calmly said “yes, I know the story.” All the while, I notice Kai is being Kai, quietly sitting in the back seat thinking. So while driving, I decide to engage Kai and while watching him in the review mirror, I ask, “Kai, did you also learn the story of Abraham and Isaac in your class?” With no hesitation, staring out the window and zero emotion, he mumbles “uh huh.” I know my kids are different and their personalities are at times polar opposites, but my kids’ dichotomous reaction to this biblical story was captivating. Mac was so into it and mesmerized by the story. On the other hand, Kai seemed so indifferent.
So in an attempt to engage Kai, refocus Mac’s grisly obsession with the dagger and hopefully drive home one of the more enlightening morals of the Abraham/Isaac story, I say, “Kai, think about it. What would you say if I told you that God had told me to kill you?” The truck went eerily silent for a split second. (To be honest, it was hard for me to hear those words come out of my mouth.) Kai being Kai quickly yet serenely looks up and coolly says, “are you sure God didn’t say AJ (AJ is Kai’s older brother)?” I look in the rear view mirror and Kai looks like a cat that has just caught a mouse. His grin was priceless. That kid is so, so, so smart and quick-witted. It took Mac and me several moments to register what he had said. Then we simultaneously busted out in laughter. All three of us laughed all the way home.
Kai will time and time again remind me that he is thinking and cognitively comprehending at a far deeper level than I give him credit for. The kid is truly bright.
I believe, no, I know my children are capable of grasping far more complexity than I realize. I often have a tendency to give my children short, watered-down facts without explanations. I will tell them the how, who, what and when and then often leave out the why. What my children continually teach me is that you can and ought to give them the why. They are more than capable of mentally and emotionally handling deep issues. Yet, giving them the why is often the hard part of parenting. It requires that I dig a bit deeper and take a bit more time and requires a lot more patience. It forces me to lead instead of merely manage.
So next time you find yourself screaming “wake up you will be late for school,” “get your homework done” or “do your chores” (kids still have chores, right?), try to pause and also give them the energy behind the facts without assuming they will automatically fly over your child’s head. When children ask you a why question, give an answer that goes a little bit beyond a statement of fact and helps them understand the why behind the request.
Whether it is a complex play on words or witty, short quip, Kai reminds me time and time again that children are far more capable of understanding complex deep issues if I just take the time to listen and teach them — or, in my case, let them teach me.Tags: Abraham and Isaac, affirming self-worth, children, Don't Just Manage -- LEAD!, Kai Coombs, leaders, Parenting, Sunday School, Teach the why, Teaching Childeren, understanding complex issues
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This post was written by Art