Have you ever made a mistake in parenting?
Long before he could write, my son Nate loved soccer. If he wasn’t playing soccer, he was
watching soccer (or begging to watch soccer as shown by the Post-It notes below). If he wasn’t playing or watching, he was using his “Soccer Guys” to act out field formations that would eventually end up with a “GOOOOAAAAAAALL!” Walking close by his imaginary play, you would usually hear his little 5-yr-old voice narrating the play in a British accent!
The play in his mind translated well to play on the field. According to the local coach, he was “above” the recreational league for 5-yr-olds and should really come try out for the competitive league. The problem was that the youngest travel league was for 8 and 9-yr-olds. Nate didn’t seem to think that was an obstacle. He began showing his magnificent obsession on the field of giants! (6-yr-old Nate on the U-9 team to the right and below.)
His obsession didn’t end there. Every restaurant’s blank placemat was quickly turned into a soccer guy: legs spread, fingers out (usually twelve fingers!), and the net behind him, often with a dialogue bubble coming out of the mouth saying, “GOOOAAALLLLL!” (I am sure with a British accent.) He seemed so old during league play that his drawings shocked us with his youth.
He was a monster on the field and a youngster in the house. After completing Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, we had moved to My Father’s World curriculum for first grade. The curriculum used the simple language of small words to write a Bible that my little guy could read all by himself! Having a 2-yr-old and 1-yr-old sister and brother, Nate was usually left to finish his Bible journaling once he and I had done the lesson together for the day.
“Since you have already read the chapter to me, write a sentence about it and color a picture of what it meant to you,” I often said as I left him to work alone and went to care for his older brother or younger siblings.
His journaling began well: Adam and Eve had a serpent come out of the tree to visit them.
On the next page, Nate had written, “Cain said, ‘Let’s go for a walk’.”
Noah’s ark had animal stickers, two by two:
Then I forgot to check the book for several days, and things took a turn:
I was shocked to open his “Bible Journal” and find pictures of …soccer guys!!! There they were: legs sprawled across the page, fingers (many!) spread and sometimes even a ball in the air!
WHAT?!!! I was livid. It would be bad enough if he had drawn soccer guys in his math notebook, but Bible journal?!! You’ve got to be kidding me!
I had found the mess while I was checking work late at night, and ran it by Chris. He agreed with my consensus that we needed to crack down HARD on little lies or we would raise an adult who tells big lies. I decided to bring up the subject to my 6-yr-old the next morning, with a clearer, calmer head. My thoughts swam: This was pure deceit. I had heard of deviled eggs, but never before had I applied the adjective to kids! Drawing soccer guys while pretending to be recording in a Bible journal? This was like some scene from the Brady Bunch of the 70’s when Peter hides the comic book and pretends to read history! I don’t care how many points he scores on the field if he can’t score points in character!
What’s on the inside is what matters!
I rehearsed my speech in my head, wanting to turn this boy from his wrong ways while he was still young enough to learn.
“You’re character will be what you choose to make it [and I added: young man!!].” – John Lubbock
“When nobody else is looking, I still see.” – God
“Better is a poor man who walks in his integrity than a rich man who is crooked in his ways.” – Proverbs 28:6
“People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” – 1Sam 16:7
The next morning, we started homeschool with a one-on-one conversation. I gave him my “SCORING POINTS FOR CHARACTER” speech, and he sat listening intently. I gave him a chance to tell me if he had any times recently when he thought his character was not something he would want God to see.
“I don’t think so,” he said as his bewildered, 6-yr-old, enormous, brown eyes squinted a little.
I brought out the Bible journal, practically ready to jump on him and say, “Thou art the man!!” I opened and turned the pages, telling him how disappointed I was that he was drawing soccer guys instead of illustrating what he had read in the Bible like I had told him.
His tears started to well.
Guilty as charged! I assumed. I was ready to accept his apology and hold hands to pray toward repentance.
His tears burst through his words as he said, “THAT…. IS MOSES!”
I was shocked when for the first time I noticed a burning bush next to the man I thought was a soccer guy.
“AND THAT IS JACOB…SEE HIS DREAM?” he said, turning the page to an identically looking man next to what I had thought was a soccer ball.
“And that one is Joseph next to the barn full of grain,” he said, pointing to another “soccer guy” next to a little square, that apparently was not a goal, but a barn.
I could have died. Or cried. Or both – preferably in that order.
I…FELT… SO… BAD!!!
Next up: one of the most important parenting moves ever:
I said, “I’m sorry,” to my son!
We held hands and prayed for my forgiveness. The table was turned. The verse: “People look at outward appearance, but God looks at the heart,” (1Sam 16:7) was still applicable. I was indeed “a people” and I just displayed it in full color to my 6-yr-old, since I had only looked at the “appearance”! I hate the taste of humble pie! But I love the results of peace in the relationship.
The Bible says, “Humble yourself and you shall be exalted,” (James 4:10) but I like to say, “Humble yourself or God will do it!”
I showed Chris the pictures later and he laughed hysterically at what we had thought, versus what was reality. Of course, I guess Nate got past the horrible incident and forgave us, because when I got out his old Bible journal this week (now that he is almost 15-yrs-old) and told him the story, he laughed and laughed and laughed, not remembering it at all!
I guess it is a good thing that God judges from the heart, because then He could know that I meant to teach for His glory; however, it served as a good reminder that my heart might be the deviled one some days in this Brady bunch.
1Peter 5:6 : “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.”