I have a confession to make: I am a serial story shortener. Funny thing is, I didn’t even know I had a problem until my kids started calling me out about it.
I shorten stories for the same reasons that you do (and I know you do). You see, I need to shelter my kids from topics that are too violent, too graphic, too… well… it’s a crazy world out there and some things just aren’t meant for little ears and little eyes and so I am vigilant about that.
But a funny thing happened while I was exercising my mad skills in content abridgement: my son started complaining: “you’re not telling me the whole story!” I can’t remember exactly when – it was surprisingly early – that he became an expert at detecting, when and where I was cutting a story short. You should know that my son is a kid who (hand to God) will turn off a tv show because “it has no educational value” and who closes his eyes and covers his ears during commercials because “some commercials are inappropriate for my age.” So why did a kid who is often more protective of himself than I am of him start to protest my censorship?
What I realized is that I’m not always shortening stories for his protection. It’s for mine. This blog is intended to be a place where you can be challenged about faithfully raising your kids. Well, here comes the really challenging part. At least it is challenging for me as a mom.
The thing I have realized is that I’m really just scared. My kids are asking me about something that I just don’t want them to know about. But of course, you know and I know that kids are wired to want to know everything. And saying they are “wired” that way is another way to say that God made them that way. All of our Munger Kids – your kids and mine – are fearfully and wonderfully made by our God. He made them to want to soak up every piece of available information. And not only to soak it up, but to synthesize it, categorize it, make sense of it, and build a framework that they can use to understand the world.
Now don’t get me wrong, keeping children away from inappropriate content is so important. I could write a separate blog post (and I probably will) about how raising godly children requires saying “no” to certain things that are going to be difficult for your children to understand because all of their friends are watching, listening, doing, etc. But we must be alert that we’re not telling ourselves that we’re protecting them, when in fact we’re avoiding a subject that makes us uncomfortable or that we just want to shelter our kids from.
Another confession about me is that I really don’t want to talk to my kids about death. I mean, I really, really, really don’t want to talk about it. They’re my babies and I don’t want them to know about this. But they want to talk to me about it. All-the-time.
I hear the same thing from a lot of you. It makes us sad and uncomfortable. Well, imagine how they feel. If they’re sniffing around the topic (like my 3 year old) or asking pointed questions about really heavy issues (like my 6 year old), then they already know something is up. Something’s the matter. They have big feelings, but they don’t know what they mean. They’re looking to us, their parents, guardians and loved ones, to help them build the framework that they’ll use for the rest of their lives. This is heavy stuff. And we need to help them through it.
The Bible has stories in it that introduce a lot of these uncomfortable topics. And although some of the Bible might call for “censoring” depending on the age of your child, I think a lot of what you are currently censoring just might be more of a fear issue.
Let me end with something that happened on Sunday night. My 3-year-old daughter requested the “painting with blood” story (aka Passover) for her nighttime Bible reading. So we sat down and started to read. We read about the plagues. She asked some questions about the pictures in her kids Bible and what certain words meant, but mostly it washed right over her. We got to God’s description of the 10th plague. And I’m gritting my teeth, praying, etc. while I read that all of the firstborn children of Egypt will die. But just like the other times we’ve read it, it goes right over her head. God commands the Israelites to paint their doors with blood – she thinks this is interesting but no real engagement. Then we read God’s command that each family eat the lamb quickly because they need to be ready to leave. And my daughter’s face goes pale. “Are they going to kill that lamb?” she asks, pointing at the picture of the lamb. Well, yes. I give some explanation about the blood, the food, etc. “Wait. Are the children and animals going to die too?” (Oh no. It’s happening. This is why I hate reading these stories!) Deep breath. Well, yes. More explanation. And my daughter loses it. Tears stream down her face. But we talk through it. We talk through how as bad as the first nine plagues were, they weren’t enough. Nothing would change Pharaoh’s mind except the worst thing imaginable. But for people willing to listen to God, there was a safe way out. And my daughter calmed down. She asked questions about the pictures. And she got happy. There was some catharsis for her in crying over death – I could see it in her eyes. And she had some satisfaction and some pride in understanding the story in a way she hadn’t before.
I know some of you are thinking that this didn’t need to be read at three years old. She could’ve had the same catharsis and the same pride in understanding at six. That’s true. But my daughter and I weren’t reading alone. My six-year-old son was reading with us. He was an awesome big brother trying to calm his sister down. When things settled he looked at me and asked if the Israelites being saved through the killing of the lamb had something to do with us being saved by the killing of Jesus. I was caught off guard, but amazed that he made the connection. “Yes,” I said, “have you ever heard people call Jesus the ‘lamb’ or say we’re ‘saved by his blood’?” He was quiet for a few seconds. “No. But I think I understand what you mean.”
It’s hard to tell the whole story. But it’s so worth it.