Summer school is in session for parents! What do I mean by that? Well, the change in schedule that most members of this community experience over summer, in the form of a break from the “school year” schedule, offers us more time with our children. More time with our children affords us additional opportunities to learn from them. Yes, you read that right. It says “learn FROM them.”
Perhaps (hopefully?) I am the lone parent in this community who has spent so much time trying to be sure that I teach my children everything that I can, expose them to a variety of opportunities, and help them find their way; that I have not taken the time to ponder what THEY are teaching ME. Recently I have begun to notice bits and snatches of what I am learning from and through my children. And no, I’m not talking about “How do I work this device?” “What’s a good app for (insert need) and please teach me to use it?” or “Does this outfit look okay or will I embarrass you if I wear it around your friends?” Of course our children help us with those types of things, and I am grateful that they do! But what I am aiming for in this blog post is for us to look at a deeper type of learning from our kids. The kind of learning sent from God Himself to us through our children.
At some point in our family’s journey to Orthodoxy, I remember reading or hearing that family members are here to help us on our journey to salvation. They are not given to us just as an encouragement, as prayer warriors, or as physical aids to help us “get by.” Rather, they are given to us as teachers, as prodders, and sometimes even as surgeons to shape, poke, and point out (and it can hurt like surgery!) the sins in our lives so that we can repent and be saved! How humbling it is, as a parent, to realize that our children have been placed specifically in our family, to do this job for us. It is imperative that we acknowledge that our A-game is insufficient and our kids are here to help us to improve and to draw closer to God. Sometimes they will teach us by directing their words to us, and other times they teach us by example.
Need examples? Here are a few ways that my children have recently taught me:
*“Is that really the best way for you to spend that money?” the question was asked once in a conversation about a large expenditure, but continues to lurk in my mind and has been a good challenge in lesser expenses, as well.
* “It’s Divine Liturgy! And a Feast Day! I don’t want to miss that!” ~ when one of them pushed to go to church on a feast day when it would have been more convenient for them to travel along with friends who were headed to the same destination, but who were leaving before church. It meant that we had to make the trip ourselves, that day, but what a blessing the whole day turned out to be!
* “God meant this for good, it will turn out right!” ~ when one of them did not get the summer job they really wanted, which would have meant months of spiritual input and full of friends… I continue to be tempted to mourn that loss for my child, but they keep reassuring me that this is God’s will for them, and therefore it will turn out for good!
* “…whatsoever tidings…” (referring to part of our daily prayer, “Whatsoever tidings I may receive during the day, teach me to accept them calmly, in the firm conviction that all eventualities fulfill Thy holy will…”) ~ when one of them had to turn down a longed-for opportunity granted at the last minute, choosing rather to uphold a prior commitment.
I could go on, but hopefully you get the idea: I am learning to notice what God is teaching me through my kids. It is true: our children teach us. It is our job to humble ourselves and learn from them. That is one of the reasons God has put them in our family.
So, fellow parents, let us make the most of this season of “summer school” with our children. Yes, we can (and must!) teach them some things in the extra time we have together. But let us also pay attention to what they are teaching us, how God is using them to shape us and make us more like Himself. And let us humbly accept – better yet, apply – these lessons!
To learn more about the idea of children teaching their parents:
“Theologians have given lots of different opinions about what Jesus meant when he said ‘whoever does not receive the Kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.’ Most of them have talked about the importance of imitating certain childlike qualities; and interestingly, they usually talk about the importance of imitating the qualities that society of the day finds desirable in a child. Rather than debating over which child-like qualities Jesus might have been talking about, I suggest actually learning from the children themselves. Here are five ways I’d suggest we can do so:” Read on at http://edsslipper.net/children/
“How would YOU do it?” Sage advice for a high-strung mama on learning from her kids and her hubby… http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rachel-macy-stafford/the-manager-in-my-home-and-the-5-words-that-changed-everything_b_7807084.html
“You don’t have to have children to be aware of the many wonderful ways they can light up your life, or generally teach you more than any yoda might be able to… despite the similarity in size. Spending more time with children and being receptive as well as guiding them is like a meditation in itself, teaching us many of the following things:” Read more at: http://fractalenlightenment.com/34431/life/10-things-children-have-to-teach-us
“Learning between grownups and kids should be reciprocal!” Child prodigy Adora Svitak’s TED talk on why adults should learn from children: https://www.ted.com/talks/adora_svitak?language=en
“Paulo Coelho once said that “A child can teach an adult three things: to be happy for no reason, to always be busy with something, and to know how to demand with all his might that which he desires.” But there’s more: the author of this blog post expands her list of things a child can teach an adult to 15! Read them here: http://www.purposefairy.com/5305/15-things-a-child-can-teach-an-adult/
This blog post’s author calls children “the best teachers, the perfect mentors.” Read the blog for yourself: http://www.lifehack.org/articles/lifestyle/what-can-we-learn-from-children.html