My husband and I gave our kids an early birthday gift. They are turning nine years old and we decided it’s time they had their own Bibles. We have my Bible and his Bible, storybook Bibles and pictures Bibles. There’s no shortage of scripture in our home. But we want them to have their own copies so they can read, bookmark, and underline if and where they choose. So we shopped around a bit, found a version that seemed suitable, and wrapped them up.
When the kids unwrapped them I was prepared for muted responses, perhaps some half-hearted thank-yous. I don’t know of too many young kids who put “Bible” on the top of their birthday list. But I was pleasantly proven wrong. Our kids went wide-eyed, held their new Bibles with reverence and eagerly began looking up familiar passages. They dove into Esther, Job, and James with a concentration belying ownership. Scripture has been read to them, over them, and for them. They have written it on their hearts with memorization and they have had ready access to it. But now it is theirs, and they started eating it up like soul-hungry pilgrims. “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.” (Psalm 42:1) And to think there are times I foolishly worry that the allure of the Holy Spirit is not sufficient, as if I must wrap His word in pretty packaging to make it appeal when all their spirits long for is the meat inside.
I have been thinking how there were many clues that my kids would appreciate these gifts, and how I still doubted whether they would elicit the satisfaction I hoped for. I need not have worried. How many times have I learned that I need not have worried! I ought to have remembered that I know my kids. My husband knows our kids. Yet how often do I question myself when I make a parenting decision, basing my insecurity on the perceived desires and needs of kids instead of reading the real kids right in front of me and trusting what I see?
I had a client once share with me a lovely insight toward the end of our coaching time together. She said she had learned to become a student of her children. She had learned to study them, inquire about them, seek answers rather than impose her own solutions to perceived problems. She had learned, was learning, how to parent the kids she had. She wasn’t parenting kids, she was parenting her kids. It might look like a subtle difference, but in reality it it makes all the difference in the world. I, too, am a student of my children, and I am always learning, always somehow repeating the lessons that don’t stick but should, and often finding that my first instincts are more on point than I allow my insecure self to readily believe. I am glad my kids don’t seem to mind giving me continuous reminders of who they are and how well I know them.
Don’t be afraid to study your children. You are not parenting some generic children of a nameless generation, you are parenting your kids and must parent in response to their individuality. I was afraid my nine year olds would be be disappointed with their gifts because I don’t know of many nine year olds begging their parents for Bibles. But my husband and I are not parenting nine year olds, we’re parenting our nine years olds. This year we studied well, and it made all the difference.