19 ¶ So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath. James 1:19 (NKJV)
By Bro. John L. Cash, “Country Preacher Dad”
As I told you a couple of weeks ago, Seth and I are eating lunch each day in the elementary school cafeteria. When Seth was in kindergarten, he had a hard time remembering (or more likely, didn’t feel like learning) his cafeteria lunch number. Well, things have gone full circle now. Both he and I sound out our lunch numbers loud and clear when we pick up our trays. We lift our voices and enunciate clearly because we don’t want to get in trouble with “The Lunchroom Ladies.”
And the daily routine of eating with first-graders who are so little (when my own sons are so very grown) has brought back a flood of happy memories of when Spencer and Seth were in elementary school. Something I learned back then is that if you take the time to listen to your kids (and to read what they write) you can learn a lot.
When Spencer started kindergarten, his assignment on the first day of school was to fill in a little fact sheet about himself. The worksheet supplied the questions, and the student filled in the answers. Since he couldn’t read or write that much on the first day of kindergarten, I had to read the sheet to him and record his responses. I expected his first few responses: “My name is…….. SPENCER” and “My hair is……..RED.” But his answer to one question really floored me: “My food I like least is……….RICE.”
Not only did this answer floor me, it made his mother and me both feel excruciatingly guilty. Having both grown up in Arkansas, it was normal for me and Susan to cook and eat rice. And being “broke as the Ten Commandments” as we raised two babies, rice was the frugal and nutritious side-dish for everybody to enjoy daily. We wondered why Spencer never told us he didn’t like the rice he dutifully shoveled down every day, as we piled ample helpings on his plate for five years straight. Perhaps it’s because it’s the only universe he’d ever known.
When Seth was in first grade, his class studied a unit about good dental hygiene. Each student made a little booklet, with each page being shaped like a tooth. Every page had a question on it, with lines supplied where the student could write a response.
After Seth’s booklet was completed and graded, I dug it out of his book bag one afternoon to look at it. He had done a great job coloring the cover of his booklet and had written an answer to every question in large block letters. One of his answers concerned me a bit, however. To the question “How do you take care of your teeth so that you will have a healthy smile?” he wrote:
I tri my best.
I dont brush my teeth
but I gargul.
Well, after I found out about that, my little son and I had to sit down and have a heart-to-heart talk. I explained to Seth why his trying his “best” wasn’t good enough in this situation. Even though he loved the minty-freshness of Scope mouthwash, he was still going to wind up with a mouthful of cavities if he didn’t start brushing his teeth.
There’s a popular phrase I’ve heard more than once lately: “When we know better, we do better.” As far as parenting goes, it’s a phrase that contains a lot of truth. You can’t remedy things of which you’re not aware. This week, spend some time talking with your children. Ask the Lord to help you know their concerns — so you can guide them on the path that leads to life everlasting.
Dr. John L. Cash is the “Country Preacher Dad.” He was raised in Stuttgart, Arkansas, and has spent the last 26 years being a country preacher in the piney woods five miles south of the little town of Hickory, Mississippi. (On week days he works at a public school.) He and his lovely wife, Susan, and his sons, Spencer (age 20) and Seth (age 17) live in the parsonage next door to the Antioch Christian Church (where the Preacher is thankful that his sons still take the time to sit down and share their thoughts with him.) He would love to hear from you in an email sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.