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Parents teach kids, but kids teach parents, too


Opinions expressed in this piece are solely those of the author.

I learned a lot, growing up on the Plains. As a girl on the windswept prairie, I learned how to keep house. Dusting, sweeping, mopping, straightening up, and washing dishes were routine chores for my sister and I.

I learned how to bake. Somewhere, a photo shows a girl with two thick braids, holding her first cake (sour cream) with a proud smile. I think I was nine years old.

I learned how to cook. Mom encouraged experiments in the kitchen, and Dad, bless his heart, ate the results like a boss.

I learned how to iron. As the biggest little bookworm ever to inhabit the Plains, ironing shirts in the dungeon (read “basement”) was a real interruption to my life. Not once did the Hallelujah Chorus spring to my lips when Mom sent me down to iron. Not once.

I learned how to hold a job. If we committed to an employer, we were supposed to honor that commitment, by cracky. No asking off for frivolous things. Nothing short of a limb amputation or a ruptured spleen was grounds for such slacking. With the parental boot in our collective backsides, we went to work.

As you’ve guessed, the chores that were the bane of my childhood existence, putting a hitch in my giddy up, have proven invaluable. The things I was taught to do prepared me for life on my own. Then I became a mother, and the teaching of the next generation fell to me. Four impressionable minds. Four young, innocent hearts were entrusted into our care, and the hardest job in the world began.

In 33-1/2 years of parenting, I’ve done a lot of teaching. I’ve taught tiny hands how to hold a spoon and how to put toys away. I’ve taught little fingers to tie their shoes, button buttons and zip a zipper.

They’ve learned how to read, how to help, how to clean. They’ve learned to fold the laundry and scrub a toilet. I’ve helped them learn verses, taught morals and manners, and I’ve shown lisping lips how to pray. For all that I’ve taught them, however, this simple truth comes, that my children have been teachers, too.

In all my life, I’ve never seen such quick forgivers. Having known me in my ugliest moments, there’s not been one time when they’ve withheld their pardon and grace. One night, we made a quick stop at the neighborhood video store. As their dad browsed leisurely, I sensed a growing revolt in the back seat of our tiny Corolla. The toddler’s mood was heading for the southern border.

“Stop that,” I said as he smeared yet one more circle on the window. “I have one nerve left, and you guys are standing on it with cleats.”

Defiant, he looked at me, rooster tails sprouting indignantly, and he reached out his paw for one more swipe. Which is when I lost it. From behind me in the darkness, I heard this, “Snap!”

“What?” I said, incredulous.

“I said, ‘Snap.’ Your last nerve just snapped.”

That simple observation from my oldest son brought me up short. I apologized for my impatience, and they forgave me quickly. (Of course, when their father returned, I gifted him with full custody. But at least my record was clear.)

My children have been living examples of faith. With the childlike trust of the very young, they would simply receive what I told them as truth with no trace of worry, or doubt, or second guessing. If Mama said things were fine and it would all work out, well, then. Everything was fine, and it would work out. Burden lifted, they’d move on, free to be what they were—little children, secure in the love and the care of their parents.

Their faith worked itself out in practical matters. When one of them wanted a dog, for instance, he began saving. “Dog Money” said the hand-lettered sign on a quart jar that stayed in his drawer to hold his savings. Every day in the lunchroom, he’d bow his head, asking God to bless his lunch and to send him a dog.

Some answers to prayer come with four legs, a wagging tail, and fur. When Copper finally arrived, the pray-er was overwhelmed with joy, and his faith was strengthened. It was an invaluable lesson for us all.

Our quartet has singlehandedly taught me more about God than nearly anyone else in this world. When I ponder how the Almighty might think or respond or weigh out a situation involving my own self, I often hear this whisper. “If it were one of your children, how would you look at it?” Without fail, I know instantly how he sees it. It’s a tremendous clarifier, a wonderful instructor. It makes me love God and The Four even more.

For parents who, too, have one nerve left, and the kids are standing on it with cleats, this word. “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up (Galatians 6:9).”

I know for a fact that this is true. The harvest is rich and abundant.

I know that, too.

May God bless you with all the strength and wisdom you need to complete the task. May he bless America, too.

Rhonda Schrock is known as America’s small, caffeinated mom. You can hear her every Saturday morning on 77 WABC with James Golden, aka Bo Snerdley. Her brand-new mini podcast, A Shot of Espresso, is available every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday to get you through the week. Mugs up!

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