I pray for my kids everyday. Not just my kids, but all kids. I try not to take it for granted that my eight-year-old son goes to school and comes home everyday, because I am quite sure that the parents of the students at Sandy Hook Elementary School, for example, fully expected to see their kids again after school on December 14, 2012. I am willing to bet that moms and dads to Columbine High School students were thinking of what their families were going to eat for dinner on the afternoon of April 20, 1999. Basically, I understand that we truly have no idea what is going to happen from one minute to the next. While I feel that my son’s school is safe, I am sure parents of those students in those schools felt the same as well. So it is a priority to me to pray for the safety of all kids at all schools across the land daily.
My prayers for my kids are different. I do not lump them together, because they are different people with different personalities and different needs. My three-year-old daughter is the far more independent one. Whereas my son is perfectly content to allow me, his dad, grandmother, grandfather or whomever wait on him hand and foot if we allow it, my baby girl wants to do everything on her own, sometimes getting her into painful accidents. Their temperaments are quite different as well. My daughter is pretty fiery and quick to throw hands. My son refuses to stand up for himself, and that bothers me.
My husband and I do not agree with how kids are expected to handle conflict these days. I had my fair share of people who attempted to bully me when I was a kid. I had awful Coke-bottle glasses (it was the eighties when I first started wearing glasses, and I think everyone who was alive then can remember how ugly and thick the glasses were) and was very much into my school work, reading and writing. I tried to walk away each time when someone was bothering me, but in the end, if someone got physical with me, I retaliated swiftly and strongly.
And you know what? The best rehabilitation for a bully when I was a kid was a black eye.
I am not trying to advocate violence, but from what I have learned is if you allow someone to keep bothering you, that is what they will do, and it will continue to escalate. Back in the eighties, kids fought and then were able to respect each other and become friends after. I am friends with everyone I got into it as a child. We can look back and laugh. None of them picked on me for long. Now, kids are not expected to do anything but tell a grown-up, who, particularly in a school setting, may or may not handle it appropriately.
My son has come home on many occasions and talked of his classmates in bulk making mean statements to him. His father and I have been teaching him that it is okay to walk away from words and to try not to let the words bother him, but we have also been letting him know that he does not have to remain quiet. I have tried to tell him to be assertive. He does not have to fight, but he can let people know not to speak to him any kind of way. When I told him this, his response was heart-wrenching:
“But I don’t want to hurt their feelings”.
In my heart, I feel a great sense of success. I have always hoped that my kids would be better than me, and that attitude lets me know that my son is just that. Although those kids hurt his feelings, he still does not want to hurt theirs. It bothers me that he does not stand up for himself, but it brought tears to my eyes to think that he is willing to shoulder pain in order to shield others from it. He just wants to be everyone’s friend. Even after someone hurts him, he is so willing to forgive and move on.
I am proud of him but don’t want to see him getting hurt. I have still been trying to tell him it is okay to stand up for himself, and his words don’t have to be mean enough to hurt anyone’s feelings–a simple but firm “don’t talk to me like that” is fine. But a few of his classmates told him it was inappropriate for him to talk about God in school. He prays over his lunch and apparently some kids took umbrage to that.
I was equally offended. Number one, I am confused as to, unless my son demanded that they pray as well, how it affects ANYONE other than the person praying if someone is having a quiet, intimate conversation with God. I was confused as to why they didn’t just mind their business. If I were to see a Muslim with their rug stretched out praying, I would pretend I didn’t even see them. I don’t agree with Islam obviously but their prayer does not bother me. It is their will and their personal experience. If someone of a different faith asked for me to pray with them, I would be pleased to do so, as long as they understood that I pray in the name of Jesus.
I asked Jayden what his response was to them. He told me he didn’t say anything for his usual reason: “I didn’t want to hurt their feelings”. This was when we were in the car on our way to school, and it turned into a deep discussion about the world system and how the world is changing just as God said it would. God stays the same. It is this world that is going to hell in a hand basket.
In elementary school in the eighties, most of my classmates either believed in God or at least respected the idea of there being a God. I remember there were some Jewish kids in my classes and Muslims as well, and the only discussion or even mentioning of faiths other than Christianity occurred during Christmas. Why? Because it was fascinating to us that the Jewish and Muslim kids didn’t celebrate what was the happiest holiday of the year for us. It then became interesting to learn about other faiths and other traditions, and there was no disrespect. It was just different, but it did not keep us all from getting along.
Now parents have gotten so smart that they don’t believe their kids need to be taught about God. They just want their kids to be good people and think they can find their own spiritual path. I once had a co-worker who got into a discussion with a client about how she was allowing her kids explore different faiths, and they practiced a lot of different customs and religions in her home. They studied Judaism and had dreidels. They also celebrated Christmas and had attended a local Catholic church. She mentioned several others that I cannot remember right now, but her point was that she just wanted her kids to find their own way, and it was just important that they be good people.
My co-worker, knowing my identity as a Christian, turned and asked me if I took my kids to places where they could learn about other faiths, such as synagogues and mosques. When I told her and the client no, they both asked me why I didn’t want my kids to make up their own minds. My response?
“Because I don’t want them to go to Hell.”
I cannot control what my kids decide to do when they get older. But as far now, I am planting the seed of Christianity in them. Christianity is the key to a moral, productive life, and more importantly, everlasting life. I think that is the misconception of a lot of people. Christianity isn’t just about life on earth, it’s about being a part of God’s kingdom in heaven. So no, I am not going to confuse them and take them to synagogues and mosques. When they are older, I would actually encourage them to go. I have. I have taken classes to learn about other religions, out of curiosity because I like to be able to learn about people. It never swayed me to question my Christianity. All my curiosity did was help me be able to serve people better. The more I know about people’s backgrounds the more I can understand them and appreciate them.
I explained to my son that the world has changed even since I was a kid and a lot of people do not believe in God. Some do but are afraid to talk about him for fear of reprisal. I explained that you cannot be a soldier of God and be a coward. I said to him, “Jayden, you’re so worried about hurting their feelings, but how do you think God feels? I mean, he made those people, and yet they are saying that you shouldn’t even talk about him?”
“Bad,” he said.
This is the world he will grow up in. A recent Pew study confirmed that fewer adults are identifying themselves as Christians, and these are the people that are bringing up their kids to think it is their prerogative to intervene in someone’s prayer (http://www.pewforum.org/2015/05/12/americas-changing-religious-landscape/). I told my son, as I always do, that it is okay that he is sensitive to others, but he cannot shy away from people who try to interfere in what he knows he is supposed to do for God. He asked yet another question:
“But what if someone tries to kill me?”
It is a difficult question to answer, but I did anyway.
“There can never come a time when you deny God. It is God who gave you your life and he will take care of you regardless.”
Christians need not fear death, and this is what I explained to him, because we already know, no matter what way we leave this planet, we are going to heaven when we die. I would hate to deny Jesus then die and see His sad face: “Why did you deny me?” How would you respond??? Jesus did not deny us when He went to the cross for us.
That day at school Jayden prayed for his lunch and the same kids commented. This time he told them boldly, “I am going to pray anyway, whenever I want to.”
The kids have said nothing else since.
We are to pray without ceasing. Whether or not people know, believe or understand, the world needs it. America definitely needs it. Interesting to me that the less people in our nation identify as Christian, the worse it gets. Ah well.
He has long hair like Samson in the Bible and is often mistaken for a girl.
He is the sweetest little boy. Optimistic, happy-go-lucky, and endlessly kind.
That picture is old, but it is one of my favorites.