Category Archives: The Mind of a Child

Children’s Letters to God (Stuart Hample, Eric Marshall, Bill Adler)

Dear God, Is it true my father won’t get in heaven if he uses his bowling words in the house? – Anita

Did you really mean Do Unto Others As They Do Unto You, because if you did then I’m going to fix my brother. – Darla

God: the bad people laughed at Noah – you make an ark on dry land you fool. But he was smart he stuck with you. That’s what I would do. – Eddie

Dear God, I bet it is very hard for you to love all of everybody in the whole world. There are only 4 people in our family and I can never do it. – Nan

Dear Lord, How do I know that you hear my prayers? Could you please give me a sign like leaving me a $10 bill under my pillow? – Gloria

Bye for the Day, Mom

If you had driven

Down Shields Avenue

Past a school at roughly

9:37 am

You might have seen a brown-haired boy

With glasses, and a button-blue shirt tucked in

Standing against the black steel fence

Waving

A score of other children swung and hula-hooped and dribbled balls and played tag

Forgive the boy waving

As if at the cars driving by

Or those waiting at the bus stand just past the parking lot

Or at nothing at all

He was waving to his mother

He was waving to me

An Outside Glimpse

Little Boy in a BoxOften, without even realizing it, we put our children in a box, labeled neatly with our perceptions of them and our assumptions as well.

My four-year-old son had been going through a whiny phase. It was difficult to even know what he was saying and I would frequently let him know (less-than-patiently) that I could not understand a word he was saying unless he spoke more clearly without the high-pitch, sing-song accompaniment of whines. After my strong reactions, he rarely improved and things would just go downhill.

My mom and I were in the car, and the kids were in the back seat. My son was talking to himself, which he rarely does. He was going on and on in a very impassioned manner so I tuned in to hear what he might be saying.

“No one understands me!” He was exclaiming to himself, building up a whole case in his little sing-song voice. I tried to reassure him that as long as he spoke clearly, he would be understood. I left it at that, although his talking continued.

That weekend, my sister came for a visit with her teenage son. I entered the living room that evening and heard my son telling a story to his aunt and cousin. They were sitting captivated as he narrated the entire tale of how we traveled from India, including information on the airplane ride, the things he saw, ate, experienced.

After he completed his tale, I told him it was time to get ready for bed. He turned to go, but then added, “I need to go now and that’s about all the information I have.”

My sister was laughing so hard she could barely breathe. My nephew commented, “He knows words I didn’t learn until sixth grade!”

The next day, my four-year-old told his plane traveling story to someone else, who was extremely impressed. He added a few details, cut out some other parts and had to double back when he forgot something, beginning the story once more from that point on. He breathlessly reached the end of the story and said, “And that’s the end of my story of how we came from Bangalore to America.”

Another successful tale. Another impressed listener. My son was happy once more.

He still has whiny moments and at times, I still have difficulty understanding what he’s trying to say. But he also has an amazing vocabulary and a gift of storytelling. Sometimes we need an outside glimpse from someone else to help us see just how special and unique each child really is.

[Repost from September, 2011]

When Your Son is Caught Sleeping

boy sleeping at homework desk

My son, sleeping by his homework. 

On the way home after an evening outing with some friends, I asked my youngest if he had a good time.

“Sort of,” he answered. “But the kids on the playground were teasing me.”

“About what?” I asked. He sometimes reacts strongly to comments, so I assumed it wasn’t a big deal.

“Eric said he saw a picture of me sleeping while doing homework, and then Leslie said she saw it too, and all the kids started laughing.”

I didn’t know how to respond. I had posted a photo on Facebook of my son sleeping at his desk, his homework beside him. I had thought it was cute. My son puts his all into his activities, but when he’s tired, he’s tired. And he sleeps.

It runs in my family. One of my siblings has narcolepsy, and others of us know once we reach a certain point of fatigue, we can’t push past it. Sleep is the only solution. My son has somehow learned that early. When he’s tired, even if it’s when we’re about to sing happy birthday at a party or when he’s supposed to be finishing up his homework, he will sleep.

My husband and I understand that and work around it. Our son’s teachers, for the most part, have also been understanding that at times he might fall asleep at his desk. I try to get him to bed on time when he’ll have an early morning or a long day.

Parents and teachers generally understand these things. Other kids often don’t.

When I posted the photo, I didn’t think about the possibility of parents showing their kids the “cute” post, which in the mind of a child might not be “cute” but “silly” or “funny” or “embarrassing.” Material to tease with.

Something I had done, unthinkingly, caused my son hurt. It cast him in a negative light in the minds of his friends. They probably forgot about it a minute later, and they were all playing again. But that moment, I had to admit to my boy that it wasn’t their fault; it was mine.

I pulled up the Facebook photo and showed it to my son, saying, “I posted this photo of you the other day. I didn’t think anyone would tease you about it.” Then I promised, “I won’t post anything of you unless I ask you first.” I already have that agreement with other members of my immediate family, but I didn’t think it would matter to my youngest. I was wrong.

It’s strange how I would make a mistake like that. Thinking back to my own childhood, my strongest emotions were borne of teasing. I can remember half a dozen separate occasions, before the age of five, where I was brought to tears from teasing. Painful moments tend to remain in the mind and the heart long after the echo of the actual words fade.

I promised my son I wouldn’t post any photos in the future without his knowledge. But how often do my own words or side comments have the same effect as those children on the playground? When I’m trying to focus on work and, after one too many interruptions, holler at the kids to leave me alone so I can get something done. Or when they’re arguing and I can’t stand the contention so I tell them I don’t care who said what and whose fault it is; I just want peace.

Failure to listen. Failure to love. Failure to see the moment through the eyes of my child.

That’s not a promise I can make. Not one I can keep. To see every moment of life through their eyes.

But it is something I can try. Not a once-and-for-all decision, but a moment by moment choice. To slow down. To think. To pray. To love.

To remember the words of a loving Christ who took time for the children. “Let the children come to me. Forbid them not, for of such is the Kingdom of Heaven.”

 

[Note: names of children on playground have been changed, and (this time) I am posting the above photo with my son’s knowledge and agreement.]

When Is a Mess Not a Mess?

Trio block constructionSunday evening, one week into my 19-unit semester. Four months of classes and assignments, abstracts and annotations, essays and reflections loomed ahead. I wanted to get in bed on time … so I wanted the kids to get in bed on time. I approached the boys’ room to pray with them for the night.

I stopped in the doorway. The room was a mess.

Books, papers, and writing instruments covered the desk. Trio block creations scattered the floor and Legos were on top of the dresser and every other horizontal surface. During the weeks leading up to the kids’ school and my classes starting again, I had spent more than a couple of hours organizing, cleaning up, and cleaning out that room with the boys … then telling them in no uncertain terms that their room needed to stay clean because the weeks ahead would be too busy to spend much time deep cleaning.

“Boys, this room is a mess,” I stated. They looked at me as though I was speaking another language. “How much time did we spend cleaning this room?” They were silent. “You’re not watching any videos until the room is clean.”

As I tried to go to sleep that night, I thought back on my motherly feathers being so ruffled by the state of their room. And I thought on the state of  their room. The Trio buildings. The art work and projects. The Lego towers. I realized it was all creative play. Building. Drawing. Even reading. All good things. Creative expressions.

No wonder I felt like I was speaking a different language. In a way, that’s just what I was doing. I said “mess” because I saw a mess. They drew blanks because they saw their creations and ongoing projects. We looked at the room and came up with very different conclusions because of our very different perspectives.

And then I thought about later. Five years from now. Or ten. I thought about their room, and how I might wish to see my kids’ latest drawing or project or poem or construction. But my kids will no longer be kids. They will have moved on to bigger and grander things.

Their room might be clean then. But the loss would be mine.

How many times do I, as a parent, look in from the outside, or from above, and fail to see the world from my children’s perspective? Through their eyes? Whether it be their room or their homework, an argument between siblings, or an emotional situation they’ re going through.

The next morning, before I even got up, the boys had cleaned their room. (And I thought my words had gone selectively unheard.) I missed the chance to get on their level and ask them what they were working on. Or join them in their creative play. Again, the loss was mine, even though the room was tidy.

No, it’s not my job to clean up after my children. And yes, they do need to develop a sense of responsibility. But perspective makes such a difference. Perspective on messes. On time. On teaching and learning.  As a parent, I am slowly coming to learn that I have more to learn than I ever did. And even that is a matter of perspective. Seeing the learning as a joy, as something to be gained from every person and every situation.

Even from a “messy” room.

Lego creation & stack of books

A Gift of a Bee

I am without a vehicle today, as my husband dropped the van off at the shop yesterday to get a couple things tuned up before our trip to Colorado next week. Usually, on Thursdays, I take the kids to school and stay there until 11:30, helping the students with their reading and literature. Then I head over to Fresno City College for my Spanish class. As soon as the class is over, I drive home, eager to get started with my work-from-home work for the day, as I have fewer evening hours than usual. I teach a class from 6:00 to 8:00 at Clovis Adult. In short, Thursday is my marathon day.

But today, I’m sitting on a bench at Fresno City College, wondering what time I’ll actually get home. I forgot to bring my homework and to-do list, so although I have a myriad of tasks, I can’t really get any of them done. So I’m waiting.

I glanced through my weekly planner, which is often more of a “so that’s what I forgot to do” notebook.

A green slip of paper fell out and I picked it up. It has a rough pencil drawing of a bee. A big bee. Twice as big as the flower it’s heading towards. The bee looks more like a blimp. A smiling, striped blimp with wings. The flower looks a bit worried. And there’s a butterfly hiding behind the flower. She’s smiling.

Beneath the bee, in block letters, a message reads, “I  ♥ MAMA”

It is a note from my six-year-old son. He drew it for me when he was five. When he was deathly afraid of bees. Seeing the size of that bee, it’s no surprise he was so scared of them.

I wondered why he would draw a picture of something he’s scared of. And then I figured it out. It’s not so much the bee factor, or the frightened flower or hiding butterfly. It’s the message. “I heart mama,” written in block letters on paper he chose because of its color. Green; my favorite color.

Usually my son draws vehicles. Lots of vehicles. Of every type. I have a drawer that is solely devoted to vehicle drawings, and it is brimming with colorful sketches back hoe loaders, fire trucks, rescue boats, and jet planes.

But this picture is of a bee. It’s green. And it says, in childish scrawl, “I love mama.”

That’s why I keep it in my planner. Why I take it with me wherever I go. So that, on days I have too much to do, or days I have nothing to do, I can be reminded of what’s really important.

My kids. My inspiration. And sources of some of the greatest love I’ve ever known.

A Night without Sherbet

sharing sherbet

It was past midnight. And it had been a long day. I woke up at 6 to get that bit of extra time I knew I needed. Packing. Cleaning. Finishing up some work. And then, once my husband and kids got home from work and school, respectively, driving to the coast.

The drive took less than three hours and here we were, at a large vacation rental home my mom had set up for our extended family to celebrate my dad’s birthday and retirement. Family members trickled in over the next few hours. We took a “short” walk to the beach, which ended up being a very long walk, and the kids watched a movie.

But finally, it was getting to be one of my favorite parts of the day: night. Bedtime.

My husband and I and the two boys were in one room, so I made up a bed for my older son on the floor. Blankets. Pillow. Sheets. It took a while to find where everything was hidden. My husband had collapsed into bed and fallen asleep a little while earlier. My youngest clambered into bed next to him.

“Mommy, can I have Sherbet and Sunshine?”

Sherbet is Aiden’s sherbet-colored dolphin. Sunshine is the yellow rabbit he got on Easter. I pulled them out of his backpack and gave them to him. He snuggled down with them.

“Mommy, I left my cuddle toys in the car.” It was Allen, sitting up in his makeshift bed on the floor.

“Allen, the car is locked now. Daddy’s gone to sleep and I don’t know where the keys are.”

I hated seeing him so disappointed, but he didn’t say a word. Allen lied back down on the floor, his head only about a foot away from the open door. Darkness loomed from the vast entrance area, and a staircase was right around the corner.

I remembered sleeping in strange places, new places. How difficult it was to fall asleep. I usually had a sister or two (or three) to sleep with, so I didn’t feel alone; crowded was often more the word for it.

“Aiden, do you think Allen could have one of your cuddle toys, just for the night?”

Aiden blinked open his eyes wide. “No,” he said simply.

I heard Allen give out a little moan, but he still didn’t say anything.

“Why don’t we pray for the night?” I asked. I didn’t want to push the issue and hoped and that Allen would be alright. After all, he was seven years old. He’s a big boy.

After a short prayer, Aiden sat up.

“Allen, you can have Sherbet and Sunshine for the night.” He climbed over the side of the bed with his two favorite stuffed toys and tucked them in next to his brother.

Within minutes, both boys were asleep it had been a long day full of excitement and adventure. But I think the best part was seeing a little boy give his little cuddle creatures to his brother so he wouldn’t feel alone.

 

When has a child in your life surprised you with an act of giving or sharing (sometimes out of the blue)? Would love to hear it. Please leave your comments below.

Beauty of the Unexpected

On a morning not too long age, after the kids had breakfast and we read some stories together, I told them I had a few deadlines to meet today. I asked them to please play nicely and not make messes (you know, the usual requests) so I could focus on my work and school.

I went a little further with my daughter. I showed her my list of things to do; on the right side of the paper, I had put the amount of time I assumed each task would take. It came to 13 1/2 hours. If I started that minute and worked straight, I would be done a little past midnight. I asked her to pray for me, so I could finish it more quickly.

I had been working at the computer for a while and got up to get something. When I came back, my daughter had made a little card for me and placed it on my desk. She saw me looking at it and looked the other way as if she had nothing to do with it.

Today I’m thankful for the joy of the unexpected. Like cards from children. Or hugs from them out of the blue. Or getting things done more quickly than expected. No, I didn’t finish everything on my list … I rarely do.

But there’s nothing like an unexpected card to keep me company while finishing my work. And to remind me of the things that are more important than to-do lists and accomplishment.

Card from Jessica

What Kids Wish the Bible Would Say

kindergarten placement testingKindergarten placement testing. That moment of truth where you know whether your efforts in early learning, flash cards, and countless stories made a difference. Whether those moments counting everything in sight, sorting, categorizing, and teaching your toddler (then preschooler, then child) to follow directions were effective.

I had been both anticipating and dreading the moment. He is my youngest, and since our middle child began attending school in fall of 2011, it had been just the two of us during school hours.

But it was also a time of change for our family. I started school again, and began working from home as an editor and ghostwriter. Amidst all that, I knew I did not give him as much time and focus – scholastically speaking – as our first two children.

Hence the mingling of anticipation and trepidation. The defining moment arrived. Our van was in the shop so my dad dropped us off at the school he would be attending in the fall. I waited in the office while he took the test.

Finally, the door opened. The kindergarten teacher walked up the hallway, approaching us. My son followed her. She stopped by the principal’s office and he ran up to me. “Mommy, I did very, very, well.”

Well, that was a good sign, especially since he doesn’t normally use the words “very,” especially twice in a sentence. Maybe he heard it straight from his prospective teacher.

She called me into the office and showed me how he did. She turned the pages of the test, explaining briefly what he had been asked to do on each one. He aced following directions, did well in problem solving, and thinking skills (probably talked a blue streak while working out certain problems). He struggled with the page on phonics. Overall, besides the phonics page, the teacher said that he did “very, very well.”

I was happy. My teaching had been at least relatively successful. Even though I hadn’t given him all the attention and focus that I had wanted to, he was definitely ready for kindergarten. It was all good.

My son played outside while we waited for my dad to pick us up. After a few minutes, he came to sit beside me. “Mommy, I wish sometimes that the Bible would tell us that we don’t have to be nice to each other. I wish it would say that we can be selfish and think about ourselves.”

I blinked, taken aback at his statement, but thankful for his honesty. My other two kids had never said anything like that, especially not at five years old. I tried not to overreact. After all, he wasn’t angry. He was just expressing how he felt. About something rather important, in my point of view.

I said, “Well, let’s think about how life would be if the Bible told us that we could do whatever we wanted. What would the world look like if people did anything they wanted to?”

His eyes glazed over. It was clearly too nebulous of a question. I realized I’d have to bring it home a little closer.

“What if the farmers didn’t feel like doing their work and decided to do something else instead? Or the truck drivers who bring food from the farms chose to stop bringing things like milk, fruits, and vegetables to the stores? Then we wouldn’t have anything to buy. What if the people who keep the streets safe or keep the traffic lights working decided they didn’t want to help people and went home?”

He was quiet, but I could tell he was thinking about it.

“What if Mommy decided I didn’t want to take care of you for a little while? What if I felt like going to a trip to the mountains so I could read and write?”

He looked at me and laughed. It was a small laugh, as if he wasn’t sure whether I was joking or not.

“I would never do something like that, and I’m happy to take care of you because I love you.”

He seemed satisfied with my answer. Usually, if he didn’t agree with something, he would either continue the discussion or stalk off in a huff (and then I’d have to reason with him a little more).

So my youngest son entered kindergarten. I no longer have him with me for the majority of the day. Does that mean my job is ended? Not by a long shot. That single conversation showed me just how important and vital my role as a mother is. And I’m in it for the long haul.

Only God knows what kinds of questions he will come up with on his own, much less what kinds of attitudes and perspective he will face when he enters school. He will likely bring home or store up in his mind many new thoughts and questions, things he will need to weigh up against the foundations that my husband and I have taught him and are teaching him.

I am tempted to get overwhelmed by the responsibility, rearing a child – not scholastically, but spiritually and morally. Teaching Him about God and truth and love. What threatens to alarm me most is that I can give this little man all the information in the world, but only God can do the work in his heart.

But I can help. I can help by praying. By “raising him up in the way he should go,” by loving him and reasoning with him and keeping an open dialogue with him, and with his brother and sister, as they learn and grow. By giving them solid input and informing them of all sides of deep, foundational issues. By having the courage to let them come to their conclusions. Then I can pray some more, that the conclusions will be good one, and that they will grow into courageous and compassionate grownups.

At the end, that’s the very best I can hope and pray for … for any of the upcoming generation.

That’s Why Jesus Died?

a child at playThe prayer of my five-year-old one summer evening shocked me with a glimpse into a child’s mind and heart. More than that, it impressed me of the awesome responsibility of being a parent. The importance of listening to, understanding, and guiding my children’s thoughts and resultant conclusions in a way that will enable them to grow into adults with wisdom, love, and concern for those around them. 

I read my children a devotional that touched on the concept that even though we want to do the right things, sometimes we will end up doing the wrong things. Sometimes while we read, my five-year-old is in an entirely different world mentally. But this time, he asked about it. His question seemed an attempt to say, “Let me get this straight … is this how it works?” 

“Mommy, people want to do the right thing, but they can’t sometimes?”

“Sometimes,” I answered. 

“But that’s why Jesus died for them. Because they can’t do all the right things … but He still loves us?”

“That’s right,” I said, wondering what about that concept made him suddenly tune into what we had been reading.

The day passed like most of the summer days had. Trying to inspire them to do their chores. Spending a few hours at the water park. Asking them to clean up their rooms and hearing all the reasons why that particular mess really isn’t theirs or really shouldn’t be cleaned up at the moment. Stepping in to help them resolve issues. 

The evening rolled around. After snack time, getting-ready-for-bed issues and finding stuffed animals, we gathered into the living room to pray.

“Jesus,” my five-year-old son started before the rest of us had even closed our eyes, “you know, there are lots of people who don’t do the right things and some of them want to do the right things.” 

I glanced over at him. His eyes were squeezed shut and his hands clasped together in front of him. But his conversational tone of voice sounded just like he was chatting with a friend. A good friend. A best Friend.

“Help them to know you, to know that you died for them to forgive them for their sins.” He said a few more sentences, which I can’t remember. It was one of those moments I wish I had a video camera or audio recorder handy. I would have loved to record those precious words that came from his heart. 

But I know they’re recorded Somewhere. By Someone who hears the prayer of every one of his children, even (and possibly especially) the ones who don’t pray because they feel they have to or because it’s just the expected thing to do. By Someone who hears every prayer from a sincere heart.

Somewhere along the way, my son discovered a Friend who has entered his heart and touches his life in a way he can’t exactly understand or express. (After all, none of us can ever entirely understand or express God’s infinite love and care).

My heart was full of a whole lot I can’t quite put into words as I listened to him pray with a simple desire for others to know and understand that same Love. To meet that same Friend. To know the one who died to forgive their sins. 

At the end of his prayer, all I could really say was, “Amen.”