Note: This story happened last year and was written last year when Hale was only 9 years old. Publishing now that she's 10.
My eldest daughter opened up something to me last night. I could hear the seriousness on her tone even while lying down on a bed in a dim lit room where we were supposed to sleep. Yes, I was ready to sleep. Yes, I can shrug her away. As a parent, I can ignore her since I have the authority to do so and it’s most convenient that way. But I am God’s steward to my children, so it is my responsibility to listen to her even if her concern may sound silly at first. Moreover, something in me convicted me to give my full attention, especially during this moment.
She confessed her desire to become a good girl but only felt frustrated that she kept on failing.
An hour ago, she received a scolding from me for what she did in the morning and later that evening. Two consecutive misbehaviours she demonstrated in a day, which required me to call her attention.
So, I crawled on the bed toward her to hear her out and show my full attention. Chantry, our youngest daughter, was jumping and turning to my direction. This was a sign that she was too sleepy to remain awake. My face was near my eldest as she was venting at me.
She narrated how she truly wanted to be good but bad deeds kept on coming in whenever she’s angry. Surprised upon hearing this, I realised all the more how much she needed my presence during her moment of self-examination. Apparently, she was having a distorted view of herself. She’s not a brat or a “bad girl” like how she put it. However, just like everyone else, we all go through struggles within us that we need to fight and overcome.
In the past 6 years, I realised the value of spending some evening hours on the bed with my children. I and Erwin have opted to sleep beside them throughout the night simply because we experience the joy and serenity of being with them. Kids grow up fast, don’t they? There is a huge value in spending the evening with our kids because this is usually the moment when kids’ darkest concerns come out. Time with kids before bedtime is often the most overlooked bonding time with family or kids. This is the time when they could either show their jolliest state by shrieking with excitement, laughing at simple jokes, or showing the opposite, such as fear or loneliness.
This time, she’s on the opposite side. It breaks her heart. I feel her pain.
I understand her. I sometimes share the same sentiment as a wife and a mother. I am not perfect. I make mistakes but I am willing to improve. Surely, their Poppa must at times have those moments of feeling like “I’m not a good father or husband.” And there’s nothing wrong about that for as long as you are willing to correct your mistakes. It’s a good reminder to examine oneself and to strive to be better. Oh, how we desire to be a good spouse, to be a good parent, or to be a good child!
Paul describes his struggles perfectly in Romans 7:15-20: “For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate… So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.”
Upon hearing my child’s desperation and frustration to be a “good” girl, and knowing how defeated she was for having stumbled many times just like any kid, I reached out to her and told her a story.
Once there was a 5-year-old boy. His name was Matt. He was excited to steal candies and put them into his pouch bag. His little sister was with him so she followed him even if their mother was around. Unfortunately, their mother did not reprimand them. No correction, no reproof, no teaching, and training in righteousness to change the ways of her kids after every wrong act at the store.
“Kids will always be kids.” This was their mother’s philosophy. “They will outgrow it, anyway,” she might be thinking.
Days turn to weeks, weeks propelled into months, months snowballed to years, until the boy was 10 years old. His friends discovered that Matt was stealing. What a shame! His stealing progressed from candies at the store to little material possessions of his friends.
The stealing did not stop there. Upon reaching high school and transferring to a new school, little did his classmates know about those bad deeds he guiltlessly committed. Because he’s eloquent, friendly, and smart, he was elected to be the class treasurer. Should I tell you what happened to the class funds? You guess it right, he was deducting bills from the funds and adding it to his daily school allowance.
Needless to say, Matt was trained up into possessing things that didn’t actually belong to him. “No one can see it, anyway!” He whispered this to himself with a smirk. He knew he could always get away from it, and his victims can’t do anything about it. From candies at the grocery store, to stuff of his friends and the class fund! It all started when he was only 5—when he learned that you can always get away from stealing candies, even if your own mother already knew.
Now, imagine this, having been trained up this way, have you ever asked yourself what will he become as a man? He’s good looking, friendly, eloquent and smart! What if he gets elected to a higher position in his community? What if he becomes a doctor? A lawyer? A judge? Or a president!?
Ponder this: When cheating is done during the early years without receiving any discipline or correction, this may continue to happen in adulthood.
As I ended my story, Cherin Hale knew what I was trying to get at. I could see her eyes widen in disbelief at what happened to the once young boy. So, she concluded in her own words, “Momma, it is better to be corrected immediately even if it’s painful than suffer later for the accumulated wrong deeds.”
“Yup,” I replied.
I asked her a question to see if she really understood the moral of the story, “Do you not desire to be corrected immediately only to see the effects of a snowballed sin, like what happened to Matt? He continued doing the wrong things believing it was just OK because his parents were not rebuking him from the start.”
“No. It’s better to be corrected immediately even if it’s painful than suffer the consequences later on in life,” she answered wisely.
Certainly, her sin was not about stealing. It was about a misbehaviour in our home that she had done as a young child. However, if I let those deeds pass and not take action, these misbehaviours might continue for there was no immediate rebuke on my part as her parent.
My daughter was getting it. From the tone of her voice, the widening of her eyes, and her gestures, I could see how she regained her confidence and energy that night. I am no longer disciplining her with a rod. At her age and maturity, there’s no need to use a rod for she seems mature to understand my teaching.
We are God’s steward and we are assigned a dauntless task to raise young minds to become the next good leaders in the future. Let us not waste what ticks before us while time is not yet due.
Thank you, Lord, for the opportunity of raising young kids. Thank you for entrusting us with this not-so-easy task. We know that teaching our kids is not a one-time occurrence. It should happen every day: When we sit at home and when we walk along the road, when we lie down and when we get up. You commanded us to teach your Words diligently to them and impress them daily. By your grace, please give us the desire, the power, and the strength to guide them in your righteousness. Please forgive us Lord when we fall short as a daughter or son to our parents, as dad or mom to our kids, as a wife or husband to our spouse. We ask you to renew our strength daily so that we may fulfil your Word. All these we ask in Jesus’ Name we pray, Amen.
“A wise child loves discipline, but a scoffer does not listen to rebuke. From the fruit of their words, good persons eat good things, but the desire of the treacherous is for wrongdoing. Those who guard their mouths preserve their lives; those who open wide their lips come to ruin. The appetite of the lazy craves, and gets nothing, while the appetite of the diligent is richly supplied. The righteous hate falsehood, but the wicked act shamefully and disgracefully. Righteousness guards the one whose way is upright, but sin overthrows the wicked.” (Proverbs 13:1-6, NRSV)