Grandpa is ninety years old now. His dementia has reached the point where he acts more like a two year old than the grandpa I know and love. Even though he has changed, I cherish the lessons I received from him. Some were lessons he taught me and others were those I learned from observing him. I realized the choices he made during his life changed the way my life might have been.
You see my grandfather was abandoned at eighteen months old. From what we can piece together, his mother left to go to work for some period of time and left my grandpa and his twin sister with their dad. We think their dad may have been called to work, but whatever the circumstances, the children were left alone in the apartment. Evidently several days went by and they were crying so loudly the neighbors called the authorities. Grandpa and his sister lived briefly with their grandparents and then were left at a local orphanage.
I blame the Puritans. Early Christians like the Apostles were known for their joy. Think about it. Paul and Silas singing praise hymns in jail. Stephen serene in the face of death. If they were that joyous in bad experiences, I have to imagine they were bursting at the seams with joy under normal circumstances.
Then came the Puritans. Technically, it probably started earlier, but they made it famous. Laughing was not for Christians and forget about having fun and wearing bright colors. Having taken an early American literature course in college, I can tell you their sermons were not exactly joyous either.
I hope I don’t get kicked out of the teaching profession for spilling all of our secrets. I’ll be honest, quite a few professional educators I know get a kick out of disciplining misbehaving children in public without their parent’s knowledge. How is that possible? We have mastered the “look”, a powerful tool that conveys the messages “Have you lost your mind?” and “I know you aren’t doing what I think you are doing.” all rolled into one. It is amazing how many out of control children immediately cave in and behave when given the “look” (even by a complete stranger).
Good teacher training programs aren’t just about how to convey knowledge to your students. They also teach you classroom management techniques. A friend and I were talking recently. We had been education majors together in college years ago. We decided that majoring in education had made us better parents. We laughed about how the classroom management techniques we had learned worked just as well at home with our own children.
When my daughter was little, we went to a lot of those mother/child classes. I used to cringe every time the teacher gave any instructions to the children. My favorite part was always when the teacher would ask the children to sit with their mothers in the circle. My daughter would quickly come and sit beside me as instructed.
The other mothers’ children would continue to run around the room getting into things. Usually there were one or two mothers who felt guilty and began to try and convince their child to come sit beside them. “Oh, don’t make them come get into the circle.” the teacher would say. “They are too young to be expected to obey.” Suddenly all eyes would turn to me and my obedient child. The look was similar to that you would give a suspected child abuser.
If you are like me, the last few weeks have been a blur. Too much rich food, too many late nights, too much running around in circles. Throw in too little exercise, too few vegetables (the kind without cheese and fried onions on them!) and too little sleep and we are all ready for the re-set that New Years resolutions bring.
If you are like most Christians, your list probably includes eating more healthy, exercising more, reading your Bible every day and improving your prayer life. You may have even decided that this is the year you will really focus on being more like Hannah and really dedicate your children to God. You plan to have a family devotional every day, go to every worship service and make an intentional effort to teach your child about God.