On a road trip, several years ago, my husband and I listened to Ramona, The Pest by Beverly Cleary. It was a book we had both enjoyed as children, but we listened to it with very different ears, as adults. Beverly Cleary has a gift for understanding how children think. Dan and I kept finding ourselves saying things like, “I remember feeling like that. I remember being excited like that. I remember feeling confused like that,” etc. We concluded that all new parents ought to read the Ramona series in order to help them understand their children better: to help them remember what it was like to be a kid and to use that understanding to “look inside of” their children more often.
God keeps our frame in mind as He parents us. Rather than being frustrated with our humanness, he pities us. Rather than feeling frustrated with our children because they’re being…..childish (it’s an inherent part of being a child), we ought to model the way God parents us.
Psalm 103: 13-14 “Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear him. For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust.”
My parents are good to have around. Sometimes I’m ready to pull my hair out over my children’s impulsiveness, silliness, messiness, etc. Then I’ll look over at my parents who are biting their lips to stifle a laugh, looking the other way, covering their mouths, and it gives me perspective: Should I expect my children to act like adults? No. It is my great privilege to lead them into adulthood, but it takes many years to get there. I need to remember their frame.
In Grace Based Parenting, by Tim Kimmel, there’s a story in Chapter 3: A Secure Love that moved me to tears. This is a somewhat long excerpt, but it’ll be worth your time if you allow it to give you some perspective on your children:
“I was sitting in a hotel restaurant in Portland, Oregon. It was a Sunday morning. I was catching a plane around noon, which afforded me the luxury of enjoying a leisurely breakfast. This restaurant offered an all-inclusive breakfast buffet, with a lower price for kids.
A mom arrived with her two children: an infant and a boy approximately four years old. I noticed the boy right away. His face was filled with excitement, and his mouth was running a mile a minute as they circled the buffet line so that Mom could see the options. His mother held the infant while the boy followed along. He could barely contain his excitement. He saw the fruit, the varieties of cereal, the pancakes and waffles, and the station where the chef made omelets to your specifictions. Then I watched his eyes pop out of his head as he studied the trays full of breakfast “desserts”–blueberry muffins, bear claws, and assorted Danish. This brief chance to watch this enthusiastic boy check out the breakfast buffet quickly became the highlight of my morning. I was watching a boy designed by God take a big breath out of every moment. He was absolutely in love with his surroundings. He looked like a boy who had gone to food heaven.
The hostess seated Mom and her two kids at the table directly across from me. The waitress filled their water glasses and asked if she could bring any coffee for the mother or juice for the kids. She asked if they were going to have the breakfast buffet.
“My husband will be down in a few minutes,” the mother replied. “He and I are going to have the buffet. You can bring a bowl of cornflakes and some milk for my boy.”
“Mom, no! I want to have the buffet, too!” the boy instantly responded. It was obvious that this boy had already mapped out his plan on how he was going to attack this buffet.
“You can’t eat all that food. Most of it is just sugar. Forget it,” the mom curtly said.
“But Mom, I like that kind of food, that’s what I was hoping for. Please?” he pleaded.
“Forget it; you’re not having the buffet, so hush up.” She turned her back on the boy and started to tend to her infant.
“Ma’am, for just a dollar and a half more than the cornflakes, he could have the buffet,” the waitress offered. She could see how anxious the boy was.
“No thanks. He doesn’t need all of that food.” The look on her face was a clear look of dismissal to the waitress.
As the mother preoccupied herself with her baby, I watched this young boy who had been so filled with excitement start to quietly turn into himself. And then the tears started. His anticipation and excitement had been stilted. I give the boy credit. He didn’t cry out loud. He didn’t argue, fuss, or make a scene. He just sat there and quietly hurt.
Dad arrived with the newspaper under his arm, sized up the situation, sat down in his chair and asked the boy why he was crying.
“I wanted to have the buffet, but Mom doesn’t want me to.”
He turned to his wife. “What’s up? Why can’t he have the buffet?”
She gave him the same practical and nutritional arguments she’d given the boy a few minutes earlier.
“Look, we’re on vacation,” Dad said. “He’s never had a opportunity to do this before. The difference in cost is chump change. We can easily afford it. And as far as waste goes, what we don’t eat they are most likely going to throw away.”
There was a brief back-and-forth discussion before the mother gave in and agreed to let the boy have the buffet. His countenance immediately reverted back to that excited little boy who had made the initial review of the food stations. Within a minute, son and father were off to attack the buffet.
I had so much fun watching this boy go from station to station to get a little bit of everything. He saw people toast their bagels, so he did it, too. He could barely reach the toaster, but an older lady took joy in helping him work it. He got pancakes and a waffles and piled syrup and whipped cream on them. I loved the way he got in the omelet line, waited his turn, and then told the chef what he wanted, which was a little bit of everything. His final trips out were to the dessert station. I say trips because he made two. Before he was done, he had a sampling of each of the little desserts that had been laid out.
Meanwhile, Mom was feeding the baby, and Dad had taken a position at the table where he could spread out the Sunday paper. When the boy got all that he had been looking forward to having, he commenced to work his way through his breakfast feast. I was completely enjoying watching this little boy getting to experience this rare treat.
That’s when Mom finally finished all feeding responsibilities of her infant and turned to study the various plates of food in front of her son.
And then she started.
“Why did you get both pancakes and waffles? And what’s with all the whipped cream? You’re just going to get that all over your clothes. And what’s this on your bagel? Cream cheese? You’ve never had that before. Did you have any idea of what you were putting on this thing?”
She got her husband’s attention. “Look at all of this. He even got an omelet.”
She turned her attention back to the boy. “Why on earth did you order an omelet?” she demanded. “There is no way you can eat all of that.” Pointing to the desserts, she said, “You get one, count ’em, one of those desserts. Pick the one you want because I’m going to take the other ones back. Why do you need a dessert anyway? It’s breakfast, for crying out loud.”
As she went through her diatribe, I watched the boy’s countenance fall. This time it looked like a combination of helplessness and hopelessness. He tried to eat everything on the assorted plates, but his mother reminded him several times how foolish he had been for getting so much stuff. As promised, she took all but one of the desserts away from him and then berated her husband for not listening to her. Once she had adequately spoiled everyone’s meal with guilt and condescension, she stood up and passed through the buffet line for herself. I just sat there and watched a little boy slowly eating his waffles, whipped cream coming out from the corners of his mouth, with tears streaming down his young face. By the time his mom got back, all the joy had drained from him.”
Kimmel goes on to remind us that God promised His children a land “flowing with milk and honey” and in Psalm 23 David describes God as providing “green pastures” and a cup “running over.”
May God keep us from stifling our children’s joy over His good gifts. May He help us to parent as He does, remembering our frame. May we look at our children with His eyes, seeing them as He sees us.