I recently read this article in which Arian Foster, an NFL star for the Texans, shares 6 things he hopes to teach his daughter.
It was refreshing to read that a millionaire had his daughter do chores to earn something she wanted. He also shares how he hopes she is kind, and motivated by her passions in life, and values her self-worth. Like I said, refreshing. Encouraging, even, to read that a celebrity is actually parenting.
Then I read his sixth point entitled, The Flying Spaghetti Monster. Here he argues that with so many religions and beliefs out in this world that he will not tell her what to believe in. Rather, when she is old enough, he will support her in what she chooses to believe, if she chooses religion at all.
What do you think of this?
I obviously don’t know Arian Foster. I know he plays football, period. I am just basing this discussion on the paragraph he penned. Since I have read his article, I just keeping thinking about his statement, “I will never tell her what to believe in.” When I think about that, I mean really reflect on that, it is a very ignorant statement.
As parents, we are our children’s first teachers. Intentional or not, we influence everything from what they eat, wear, watch, and do. No matter the age, their eyes are always watching!
Just this summer, my three-year-old nephew was at a home improvement store with his dad when he saw a man wearing a Missouri Tigers shirt. My thirty pound, twinkle toes, curly-locked nephew strutted up to a gruff stranger, a grown man, with all the confidence in the world and scolded, “We don’t like Tigers!”
Did you catch that? WE don’t like tigers. He is three, and even though his daddy is more than the average Illini fan, he already understands that family value. Granted, someday when my nephew is older, he may make a friend that’s a Mizzou fan, or even (gasp) attend the University of Missouri, but for now, at three, he’s got it all figured out. We love the Chief. We don’t like Tigers.
Our children don’t just learn who to cheer for from a young age, but they learn our rules as well. When my oldest son was just four, we were over at a friend’s house. Sponge Bob was on the TV and my son said, “We aren’t allowed to watch this show.” I never had to sit him down and say, “We don’t believe in Sponge Bob,” or “Sponge Bob is against the rules.” I merely just changed the channel every time Sponge Bob came on. He watched me do this and learned, WE don’t watch Sponge Bob. When he got older he asked why he couldn’t watch, and I justified my reasoning.
Sometimes it’s not even what we say to our kids, but what we say around our kids that help them to understand our values. My dad told me the story about his parents when he was a young boy. Around the time the Freedom Marches were going on, relatives from Louisiana came up for a visit. Apparently these relatives were saying positive things about the concept of Separate but Equal, and he could tell from his mother’s reactions that these people were wrong. As a teacher, I can attest to this experience. I would sometimes be brought to laughter hearing nine and ten year olds argue over political issues. They had absolutely no idea what they were saying, they were just regurgitating the conversations they overheard their parents having. Like I said, their eyes, and ears are always on us!
When my father died, my kids had a lot of questions. “Where is Papa?” “How did he die?” “When will he come back to life?” “When will we see him again?” As a parent, those questions just simply cut you through the heart. At 5 and 3, they just shouldn’t be asking those questions, and honestly,at 29, I didn’t feel even I should be asking those questions! The truth was, however, that they were asking those questions because they were sad, they were confused, and they were searching for comfort. My boys wanted to know from their mom and dad what they should feel, what they should think, and what they should believe. In the same way they want to know whether we are the red team or black team, they wanted to believe the same as mom and dad. So we told them. We told them Papa was in Heaven. We told them Papa met with Jesus and it was time for him to go to Heaven. We told them that Papa won’t come back to life here on Earth, but that we can still talk to him and see him in our dreams.
We didn’t have the time, nor the luxury of waiting for them to be old enough to figure it out for themselves.
They needed to know then, from us, how they were to dissect this very heavy new reality. To be honest, nine months later, they still ask those questions about their Papa. I’m certain nine years from now, they will ask those questions again, still trying to understand and process what happened, and what to believe in.
I often think about my own experience with losing a parent and relying on faith. Before last January, I would almost shy away from sharing my faith because I felt as though my life was too easy, or not filled with enough spice to truly be a testament. Now I see the nonsense in that. If my parents hadn’t said prayers with me before bed as a kid, dragged me out of bed and taken me to church as a teen, or provided me experiences to ask questions, and to learn more, then I know the sudden death of my dad would have literally kicked me in the face, and would to this day, be smashing me further and further into the ground. Honestly; because losing someone you love sucks and it’s hard, so very hard to comprehend. But because I had those experiences to build my faith, and to build my foundation of what I believe, today I can find comfort that my dad saw the steps of my life and he knew I’d be okay. I can find comfort in knowing that I will finish strong, that Jesus loves me and He will ease my tears.
So if I know this, shouldn’t I share that with my children?
Shouldn’t I provide them with experiences to build their faith so that when trials come (because they will), they have tools to come out victorious?
So no Flying Spaghetti Monster here. I will tell my children to believe in the Cyclones even though they are always the underdog. I will tell my children to believe in saying please and thank you even if their friends don’t say those words. I will tell my children to believe in serving people even though they can sometimes be mean.
And I will tell my children to believe in Jesus because the truth is, there will be a time when they need Him, and I want them to know that He has a lot to offer.
We are teaching our children what to believe in by what we do and say everyday… we may as well be intentional about it!
Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. Psalm 22:6
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