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    Strength for Today, Bright Hope for Tomorrow

    March 16, 2011 by Brandy Vencel

    [dropcap]Y[/dropcap]esterday’s post elicited a comment that I want to address here in a separate post, because it tore at my heart so much, and because my answer is so lengthy. Here it is:

    After reading these posts I am more convinced than ever that we have made some less than wise decisions in our parenting. Is it possible to rekindle the imagination of a 12, 10 and 8 year old? My heart is sick…I wish we could get out of American suburbia and all its assaults against the family and our children. I have effectively been a single mom for 2 years and it is so very hard to fight all these things…

    Strength for Today Bright Hope for Tomorrow

    I don’t know about you all, but every. single. time. that I have realized I have made a major parenting mistake, I have fretted and worried. I have wondered if I have forever damaged my children. For instance, my oldest was inclined, from his earliest years, to stay inside and look at books. I’m like that, too, so we spent many hours indoors, reading aloud. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that Charlotte Mason believed that children under nine should be outside for four, five, even six hours per day in good weather. As she listed off the benefits, I realized that though my oldest had gained much from all the thousands of pages we read, he had also missed out on knowing the real things that God made outside in the great wide world.

    Knowing the things before knowing the symbols of the things in books is important, she said.

    I cringed internally the first time I read that.

    So maybe some of you read yesterday’s post, and realized that you’ve been killing your child’s imagination accidentally through overscheduling or digital overstimulation — things a lot of folks in this culture tell us children must have if they are going to “keep up with their peers.”

    I don’t know what all of you do when you realize you’ve been wrong, but I’ll tell you what I do.

     

    Realize We Can’t Mess Up God’s Plan

    God made children so resilient that He trusted them to us. Incredible, no?

    In regards to a child’s imagination, one of the things I’ve realized through reading 10 Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child is that destroying it is quite difficult to accomplish. Hunting and raising animals can inspire imagination. So can learning to sew or carve, working in a garden — even digging a hole. Watching men build a skyscraper or a road also works. So does being allowed to do something dangerous {like running on a playground at school or climbing a tree}.

    The options are endless.

    The chances of having done irreparable damage is slim. No one is ever so far fallen that God cannot save him. No living person is beyond redemption.

    Which brings us to the next step.

     

    Repent

    Repentance is a cornerstone of the Christian faith, it is true. But repentance isn’t a one-time event in life. Every single time we realize we’re heading the wrong direction, and we choose to turn around {with God’s help}, we are repenting.

    I feel like I have repented a thousand times since I got married. Being a wife gave me more opportunities to repent than being single, and being a mother has given me even more.

    There is no point in sitting around, berating ourselves for what we have done, the mistakes we have made — especially what we have done in ignorance. Instead, we turn around and look for the better path.

     

    Practical Ideas

    In this instance, the better path means not just eliminating some things, but replacing those them with better things. Remember what Esolen said:

    Every hour spent in front of the television was an hour not spent doing something else…

    The first thing I would suggest is a media fast. Let me give you fair warning: expect withdrawal symptoms! We had a little girl over to our house one time that was in a sad state. Her parents lived in a little tiny RV park without even a playground. In order to keep her occupied, her mother kept her in front of the television for many, many hours each day. When she came to our house, and saw there was no television, she didn’t know what to do with herself. She was noticeably irritated and restless.

    This is to be expected.

    One of the things I have realized is that boredom is an important step in childhood. It is in being bored that children push past the boredom and do imaginative things, such as thinking thoughts or devising games. So step two is: Let them be bored. The older the child, the more informed they need to be. When I realize monumental things like this, I take the child and apologize, explain that Mommy has made a major mistake, and then described what we’re going to do differently.

    Step three is: Immerse them in good stories. Stories populate the imagination, giving children fodder for their play. Start at the beginning of the Bible (I use the King James because I think it gives them an ear for good literature), and read the stories. Skip the genealogies and laws. Just read one story each day, until you reach the end. Then, you can start over again! In addition to the Bible, expose them to as many good books as you can!

    If you don’t know where to start, I’d suggest checking out the 1000 Good Books list. It is a great starting place, and one I have resorted to many times over the years. Not all books need to be read aloud, especially if you don’t have the time. Acquire some of these books as MP3s and play them in the car as you drive, or in the house as you sit together in the afternoons and evenings.

    Step four might be: Teach them something interesting. Do you have a hobby? Can you sew? Do you cook meals? Teach what you know to your children. This, too, stimulates the imagination.

    Perhaps the most important thing, though, is: Give them generous amounts of spare time. I wouldn’t worry if it seems like they waste it staring up at the ceiling at first. Children who haven’t practiced thinking of things to do on their own will be developing this skill, and it will take time and effort on their part. There is no way to skip that step. Of course, taking them to a wide open space somewhere surely assists them.

    Go sit at a park or a field and let them run wild. Let them climb and scream. Let them invent games. Bring a ball or a bike to help them get going. Encourage their curiosity by answering any and every question they have. If they come running to you with a bug or a flower, try to know its name. (I keep field guides with me because I hardly know the names of anything.)

    Or acquire an interesting animal for them to take care of in their newfound spare time. {Sometimes you can even find animals for free on Craigslist.} We, for instance, keep ducks and are getting rabbits. Children love animals. Buy or borrow books on raising the animals, to help them learn to be good keepers.

    All of this will take time — it can’t be done on one day. If your husband is in the home, but not on board, be very careful. All of this is not worth interrupting peace in the home. But whatever time you have alone with the children is yours to spend wisely.

    And don’t forget to pray. The Lord has a heart for you as you labor to do good for your children.

     

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    5 Comments

  • Reply Melissa March 17, 2011 at 3:47 am

    Thank you, Brandy. I need to let this soak in deep…
    Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow.

  • Reply Kristen @ Dem Golden Apples March 17, 2011 at 2:02 am

    This is wonderful, Brandy! I love the truths here. God is so faithful.

  • Reply Pam... March 16, 2011 at 9:54 pm

    Yes, very gracious and wise advice for us all.

  • Reply GretchenJoanna March 16, 2011 at 9:12 pm

    You are very kind to take the time to share what will no doubt be helpful to many people. This post should be starred, bookmarked, passed around extensively. It sums up what one could search through numerous books to find.

  • Reply Go quickly and tell March 16, 2011 at 7:53 pm

    Such a wonderfully encouraging message, Brandy.

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