Teaching the Children

One of the heaviest responsibilities for me as a parent is to make sure that my children are firmly grounded in the religious beliefs that I hold dear. This is primarily important because of what I believe about this life and life hereafter, but it is also important because faith has been an essential tool for me in handling life. When I am faced with things that are difficult or frightening, I turn to prayer, church, scriptures, and personal revelation. These are the means by which I have survived and will continue to survive. I desperately want my kids to have those tools at their disposal. So I take my kids to church. We pray in our home. Family scripture study is the beginning of the day. (At least in theory, scripture study got lost somewhere in the end-of-school craziness and we’ve yet to put it back.) Most of all, I tell my kids how I feel about these things and they have helped me. But all the teaching, shaping, modeling does not guarantee that my children will adopt these tools for themselves. I can demonstrate the usefulness of a fork all day, but until the child picks it up and practices using it, the fork is only a pointy piece of metal. (or a drumstick, or something to fling off the edge of the high chair.)

Many a parenting book or magazine article will tout the importance of “teachable moments.” These are the times when a child is actively curious about a particular topic. It usually begins with a question and sometimes sparks a discussion which expands to fill whatever time is available. Unfortunately these teachable moments arrive on the child’s schedule, not the parent’s. All too often I stay up late at night talking things over with a child because I found a moment where the words I say will really be absorbed. This is particularly true in relation to spiritual and religious topics. My kids know the right answers. They’ve been going to church their whole lives, it would be nigh impossible for them not to know. But there is a difference between answering “prayer” to a Sunday School question and getting onto your knees in real need, searching for answers to your troubles. It is the difference between seeing forks everywhere and actually using one. (The use of a fork is actually a skill, ask anyone who grew up using chopsticks.)

To my joy, I am not alone in this effort to teach my children about these spiritual tools. Howard and I believe the same things and so we work together rather than at cross purposes. That helps. It also helps that all of our extended family are immersed in the same beliefs. Everywhere my kids go, they see loved ones using these same tools. Most importantly the tools actually work. When my children pick them up and try them, then the same God who helps me, helps them in the same way. That knowledge alone lightens the burden of all the rest. I am not alone in this effort. They are His children too.

It is hard to describe the joy I feel when I see my children reaching for their own spiritual connections rather than relying upon me for answers. I love it when they have their own experiences with prayer or scriptures and then choose to share their feelings with me. At such moments I really feel how my children are spiritual beings in their own right and they’ve only been loaned to me for a time. I have a responsibility to teach them, but I do not own them. I’ve had several such experiences in the last few months and I do not have words to describe how grateful I am to be a part of the growth of these amazing people who happen to be my children.