Category Archives: The Mind of a Child
Sunday 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, temporarily blinded by the state of their room.
Books, papers, and writing instruments covered the desk. Trio block creations scattered the floor and Lego creations stood 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 about that. 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 same 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.
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
If you had driven
Down Shields Avenue
Past a school at roughly
You might have seen a brown-haired boy
With glasses, and a button-blue shirt tucked in
Standing against the black steel fence
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
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.
Kindergarten 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.