Remember when you were a baby?
Certainly you do.
Find someone to tell you about your babyhood.
Look at old photos.
You remember something.
I remember when my dad scared me— truly, I do.
I was young enough to be in the bassinet, which would be three months or less. My dad had his usual summer crewcut. All his black waves were gone. It was new to me. I noticed. I screamed.
It is a clear, definite impression.
I remember a game, hiding from my mother under a dinette chair, I was that young. She called, pretending she could not see me.
It’s just like yesterday.
I remember clothing that the photos say I wore at age two. One favorite brown dress is so vivid—I spilled milk on it and cried. I remember this clearly.
Why do we remember certain things?
The fearful happening is easy to grasp. With the instance under the chair, it was the first time I did not believe my mother. I knew she could see me; I did not know about pretending, yet.
The spill on the brown dress, I remember, was a very personal loss, guilt, and regret.
My point is this:
If my experiences are any indication, then very little children, contrary to professional opinion, do remember things.
If my experiences are any indication, they remember trauma, disappointments, guilt, and losses.
Never be tempted to think, “Oh, he’ll forget it.” He might not. What a heavy truth!
What can we do?
First, we must pray for our littlest children as if they were real people. Can you guess why?
We must pray for our tiny ones that God would take their lives into His hands and comfort them when we unknowingly fail them.
Pray that He would redeem the pain in their memories.
Pray that He would protect them from the enemy’s attacks. (My first battle with the tempter came when I was too young to reach light switches. I was an easy target.)
Ask God’s protection over their nighttimes, too.
Let them hear you praying for them.
They will remember.
The second important remedy we can add to their small memories is to make sure they know we love them. How easy and common it is to shrug off the little ones until they force our notice!
Yet, the manifested love that we withhold would enrich their little lives if we were to give it, instead. Every command in the Bible that applies to love applies to our relationship with our children. Therefore we should:
- pray for
- be truthful to
- provide for
I know we do these things all day long, but sometimes, we skip the tiniest ones if they are not making noise. This only teaches them that noise is the way to get things.
Learn to discern and correct their seemingly little sins. No sin is little in God’s eyes, and the sooner they learn to deny self-gratification, the easier the lesson will be for them. We must get past correcting only the loud faults, the messy mistakes, and the embarrassing boo-boos. We roll our eyes and exclaim, “Kids!” If our dog behaves better than our children, though, the dog is happier than they are and we’ve been remiss.
Hold your children. Last month, I watched a young mother crossing a busy section of parking lot with three bags of fast food in her arms and a child who had to be younger than two following behind. I was shocked. Cars came at a quick clip because it was near the entrance to the lot. The child tripped once, eliciting grouchy remarks from the mother. I was sure the tot would be killed, but God was merciful.
Do I think that mom ever holds that child? No. Not a shred of normal, maternal compassion was visible in that woman.
Maybe that babe was older than he looked, though, because “held” children grow better. Our friends who adopted a foreign orphan had a three-year-old who wore size 18 months. This is hard to prevent in an orphanage because of too many babies and too few workers.
We do not live in orphanages, though. We can give our children the “growth vitamins” called hugging, holding, kissing, touching, singing, laughing, rocking, patting…the list is endless. Look at your babies’ eyes and smile into their souls.
They will remember.
Meet earthly needs
Feeding, watering, and exercising are all things you would provide a dog or horse. Do not deprive your little ones of at least the same consideration.
You know toaster pastries are not it. Give them slow-cooked oatmeal with raisins, cream, raw honey, and cinnamon, instead.
You know hotdogs are not it. Give them meat salad made of yesterday’s roast you cooked from scratch, with brown mustard and butter on whole wheat bread with homemade pickle slices.
You know chicken nuggets are not it, either. Give them brined chicken you’ve actually fried or baked, for real, along with some caramelized carrots, onions, and green beans.
Real food with cholesterol will nourish their brain cells. And if they clean their plates, let them have a real cookie as a treat, not some chemical laden thing that looks more like a toy than food.
Make all snacks be fruit, vegetables, or maybe cheese.
Help them develop a preference for pure water. Get a good filter. You know a pet fish would die without pure water. Give your children water to drink, when they say they are thirsty, with just a tad of ice to entice their thirst. Keep pure water available and offer it often. If they fuss over “just water,” they need training to relearn what they were made to drink. A small amount of fruit juice or some milk with a good meal is allowable; otherwise make it water. You can do it.
Take them out for fresh air. Oxygen and sunlight make children healthier. Running, jumping, strolling, and glorying in the outdoors make children healthier.
Who wants sick kids? They should have a habit they cannot put down about needing to be outdoors a lot. While you’re at it, teach them to have awe about all types of weather, about all seasons. Make a new fun family activity of watching storms come in, rejoicing in all weather.
Diaper them often. (It’s five to ten thousand diapers. Accept it.) Use cloth for its gentleness to baby skin, and its biodegradability. Wash diapers daily. Hang them in sunlight whenever possible. Toilet train your babies early.
Little tummies, trained to be hungry at mealtime, will be.
Little eyelids, trained to be heavy at naptime, will be.
When children know what to expect, their systems fall into the swing of things. They relax. They feel less stress. They are healthier in their minds and bodies.
Childproof the cabinets, outlets, stairs, and pool. Pick up the tacks, marbles, and ant bait. Scrub the floors. These recommendations are no-brainers that people still need to hear.
Think of it this way: You would do it for your dog or your horse—how much more for your babes!
They will remember.
So, whatever became of me?
I survived, for sure. I had good parents. I clearly remember how my mother worried when I cried over the favorite dress. When I explained to her why the tears, she gently yet joyfully promised me it was not a permanent problem and she would wash and iron the dress, making it like new.
I remember the next time I wore it—she romanced me by making certain I looked for the spill and saw it was gone. Here is the important part:
I immediately assessed her as a knowledgeable and trustworthy person.
Please, recall that I was only two and knew nothing about demonstrating responsibility.
I spent possibly 6500 days as a child with her in my whole life. No doubt, she spoke to me each of those days. Yet, I remember this one day when she blew me away with a clean dress. I do not remember the day before, nor the day after. However, the day she promised to fix my problem and the day she delivered on her promise remain.
I believe the reason was that she spoke, not just at me, but to me. She addressed my problem, made me a promise, and kept it.
This is what I mean about thinking of little children as real people.
I also believe those two days possibly saved my life, later.
You see, we had some toys that we simply loved. They were so much fun to play with. The advertisers called them “pop beads”. You could make all sorts of “pearl” necklaces from pop beads. The trouble was, they were precisely the right size to choke a child.
Eventually the manufacturers removed them from the market because of the danger, but not before, at age ten, I had the very memorable and much forbidden experience of getting one stuck in my windpipe.
I ran to the only help I knew—and my mother pounded my back until she dislodged it.
Why did I go to her, when she had promised severe punishment for putting that toy into my mouth?
No one rationalizes in such a situation. No, I had already learned that whether I was guilty or not, my mother knew what to do and would help. I was right.
I had made that correct assessment when I was two.
Now, you likely are mentally questioning the hide and seek game. Why did I believe her so when I knew she could be unpredictable?
That’s easy: Before long I began to understand the game and to take delight in the idea that she could see me, yet I was still hidden. From this and several other happy examples, I learned of her love that would stoop to play with me.
Though I was a toddler, I felt amazement at this. I mean, she could see me, yet pretended to look for me. She could color perfectly, yet she contributed to my messy color books. She gave me little hints from her childhood on how to play, such as using the brown/black seed from dock plants for pretend coffee grounds. She gave me her own clothing for dress-ups; in my mind, I was big, wearing her very own things.
My mother addressed me, romanced me. She lived with me, not above me.
I have remembered.
Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.” Psalm 127:3
This is talking to you about your kids. They are an inheritance, a reward, though I cannot say for what.
What have you done to deserve receiving a fellow human being as a reward? What have I done?
Or what kind of Father is He Who bequeaths miniature humans to us?
What kind of reward is this, anyway?
What is good, fun, or desirable about it?
He has the cattle on a thousand hills. The mountains, rivers, and stars belong to Him. All the energy holding all creation together is in the palm of His hand, and He gives you a squally baby, a runny-nosed toddler, a bossy grade-schooler, a pouty teen?
What does this Scripture mean? Only this: He has given to us of His most precious possessions.
What we really have is this: a temple under construction. God has plans to live inside our children, therefore, we must help them grow up to be good containers for the Living God.
When Israel was building the first temple, the workers paid much attention to seemingly insignificant commands. I do not pretend to know why God had to have pomegranates or bells where He ordered them, but I do know Scripture tells us that Old Testament happenings were for our instruction and example. When I look at the example of the building of the temple, I know I have to pay close attention to minute detail when I am helping to build a modern day temple—my child.
When I think of children who have grown up in the kind of poverty that includes no mothering, I become sad. Nearly every child has a mother, yet there are so many motherless. Our day cares, schools, orphanages, and prisons are full.
Motherless children are everywhere. They grow up not knowing that mistakes are fixable, that kindness feels good, and that fear can be misleading. Look around you. Motherless children are, truly, everywhere. Aren’t they? Be sure your children are not among them.
It’s you, Mother, it’s you. You are the program, the method, the medicine, the answer.
Turn the traumas in your child’s life into gold, silver, and jewels by praying down God’s grace into their lives.
Give them remembrances from which they can draw life-saving truths by daily, hourly, being for them the presence of God in their lives.
Help them learn to give and receive forgiveness by forgiving them. Help them learn to give and receive kindness by being kind and gentle with them. Help them learn to give and receive trust by being there when they really need you, which is always.
Cause them to become whole, real, usable people, when they are big, by treating them like whole, real, usable people when they are little.
They will remember