There are times in life when you wonder who raised your children. This is especially true after they leave home and create a life of their own. They say and do things you never allowed them to say and do at home. They believe things that are counter to your own beliefs. They pursue things that are the antithesis of the values they were taught. They engage in activities you know will eventually cause them harm or heartache, or both. Sometimes they go to such extremes that it is like observing strangers.
The Bible says “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old he will not depart from it.” But I often find myself asking “How old, Lord?” How long must I wait? How long will my child head down the wrong path before becoming hopelessly lost in the woods?
Research tells us that a child’s peers have far more influence on them than we do. The people they hang out with in elementary school begin to change their thoughts and ideas and habits and actions. Sad to realize, but we have little control over a child’s social life and relationships once they start school. By high school you can predict much of their future actions by the group of friends they most closely associate with and emulate. Their own personality attracts them to others and their own choices develop their relationships, whether we approve of them or not. Makes me wonder if we shouldn’t have some sort of screening process in kindergarten to make sure they fall in with the right crowd!
Experience assures us that people can change, that they “learn their lesson” and move on to better relationships and better choices and better actions. Sometimes that’s true, and it becomes the hope on which we hang our anxiety. In the meantime we worry and wait. We pray.
I am reminded too, of the mistakes I’ve made in life and the people I’ve associated with who turned out to be less than worthy to be good friends. I’ve made some choices in life that caused my own mother anxiety and grief. I’ve strayed down a few paths that might have led me off course forever. However, I found my way back to the fundamentals of what my parents taught me and the values they stressed early in life. Perhaps the Bible assures us that the essence of what we have taught will stay with our children even if some of the details do not. I don’t know. My brain is not big enough to process it all.
I do know that sometimes the most obscure things pop into my memory when I least expect them! I was driving home one day last week when I suddenly realized I was humming the lullaby that my mother sang to me each night when I was a very small child. In seconds I was singing it from memory. When I Googled the words later I was surprised to see how accurate my recall was after so many years! So maybe all the lessons my parents taught me over the years really are inside my head somewhere, ready to pop out when I need them. Perhaps my children still retain the essence of what I taught them. I pray it is so. I would hate to think of them lost in the woods forever.
And for those of you wondering, here is my childhood lullaby. I know, I know…it might explain a lot of my strangeness.
Babes in the Woods
(an old Ozark folksong)
Oh, don't you remember, a long time ago
When two little babes, their names I don't know,
Were stolen away one bright summer day
And lost in the woods, I've heard people say.
And when it was night, oh, sad was their plight
The moon had gone down, the stars gave no light;
They sobbed and they sighed, and bitterly cried
Then the poor little babes, they lay down and died.
And when they were dead the robins so red
Brought strawberry leaves and over them spread
And sang them a song, the whole summer long
Poor babes in the wood, who never did wrong.