The little guy was testing me. He inched the stick closer and closer to his lips, eyeing me the entire time.
"Don't you do it, buster!"
He moved it away from his mouth ... but then he squinted his eyes, and moved it back towards his mouth, this time with a bit of mischeif in his eyes.
"Bleh! Fine. If you like the way it tastes ... by all means ... okay, noooo noooo noooo! I was joking."
The 1 1/2 year old dislodged the pithy mass from the tip of his lips ... not because of my warning not to ... but out of sheer bewilderment. As if he was thinking, "What did she say?"
"No," he said again, this time enunciating the word.
"No." This time it was said firmly ... my thoughts went back to when I was learning German ... Oh my goodness! The toddler was correcting my pronunciation!!!
I've always believed that adults never gave kids enough credit. They are capable of so much ... and we often times supress them ... why? Because they seem to be incapable of achieving or comprehending greatness?
What if ... instead of speaking "baby talk" to our babies (and teenagers), we spoke to them on our own level ... spurring them on to being "greater" than they already are. Give them a taste of what they can become.
When they stumble ... don't pick them up and coddle them in your arms. Let them figure out for themselves how to get back up ... with your presence there at all times ... your hand inches from their back.
And you know what ... to see the spark of achievement and enlightenment in their eyes as they figure out life ... it's worth it all.
That's been one of my philosophies of child-rearing. As I experiment on my "little friend," I have yet to be disappointed. We have a blast learning to walk up and down, up and down, up and down steep hills without tumbling. As I go on and on about the rules (or lack thereof) of "Ultimate Ping Pong" as we watch a couple of the guys through the window playing ping pong, he watches my mouth ... slightly moving his own attempting to mimic my own words.
I'm thankful that my own parents dealt the same with me. Sure there were times of frustration when I was stuck at the top of the jungle gym. But through sheer patience, my father stood at the bottom urging me to find my way down, making suggestions of where to put my foot next. In no time, I was at the bottom. It would have been nothing for him to grab me, setting me safely on the ground. But moments like that made me feel alive. One moment I was frozen with fear, and the next I was able to control the situation. I could handle anything.
My mother always treated me like her best girlfriend. We would talk and talk of everything under the sun ... I don't remember her once dumbing down her manner of speech just because I was younger. To disobey her was not only to rebel against authority but to pain ... and worse--to disappoint ... the woman who I loved more than any other. Today our relationship is built on such trust that we can both encourage and keep each other accountable. How many mothers ask for advice from their daughters?! And how many daughters relish it when their mothers point out serious flaws in their daughter's character?
One of my earliest memories is of me sitting on the kitchen counter reading outloud as my father flipped through homemade flashcards. cat. dog. the. and. One of his greatest goals for his little girl was that she would become a reader. When I was a teenager, my father was my Bible/theology teacher. He'd take a book off of his shelf that he was reading himself and we'd read it together ... often having heated debates at the dinner table. When I'm at home, he and I will sit in his office for hours discussing all manner of topics ... from theology to politics to science to all sorts of absurdities. ... thanks a lot, Daddy. It's all your fault!
Learning was fun. Learning was life. Perhaps that's why I've turned out to be such an odd character. But I wouldn't want to be anything else. My children will read, fall and pick themselves up, and speak up with confidence and discernment. I'm testing out all my theories, however, beforehand on the 1 1/2 year old boy I babysit.
Thank God, our Heavenly Father, that He sanctifies us, keeping His hand inches from our backs and speaks to us through the pen of Paul and others.