Suffer the Little Children to come unto Me...

Today I had a very troubling encounter with an 8-year old in a summer program at a local Christian elementary school. This particular class had twenty-one 7 and 8 year-olds. Toward the end of the class I asked the students to begin cleaning their areas in preparation for recess. One young boy's response to my request the first time, second time and fifth time was, "I'm not finished yet." Being that I was busy with the other twenty children, my classroom aide stepped in and handled it.

It didn't go well between the two of them; Aaron (names have been changed to protect...) flew into a seething rage, wadded up his art paper and threw it into the trash all the while yelling at me and stomping around the room.

The rest of the class was dismissed, and I asked Aaron to stay behind and take a seat. Not about to get into a power struggle with an 8-year old, I began asking him questions: did he understand my instructions? What would happen if everyone ignored instructions during class? Then, wanting to get an idea of where he was coming from spiritually, I asked if he went to Sunday School. Here it came: (Italics were his emphasis.)

"I hate Sunday School! It's stupid!"

"Why is Sunday School stupid, Aaron?"

"Because it is. Just a bunch of stories from the Bible. They mean nothing. I'm not a Christian! My mom is obsessed with the Bible. She reads it every morning for an hour and it's meaningless. It means nothing. Nothing!."

In all the years I've taught, I can't remember this depth of contempt for God and His Word coming from such a young child. Noting that 'obsessed' and 'meaningless' aren't common vernacular for a second-grader, he obviously learned it from a significant adult in his life, and not his mother. We talked until he calmed down, then I sent him to the playground.

Today the challenge in teaching kids is the enormity of brokenness each of them experiences on a daily basis outside the classroom. The majority of kids come from divorced homes. Two of my 3rd grade girls were commiserating one afternoon about the guys their moms are living with, and wasn't it a bummer because they were both real jerks.

The family unit is disappearing; it is not unusual for children to be cared for by a sequence of live-in boyfriends (or girlfriends). Many are in daycare from 7 in the morning until 6 in the evening. Mom drops them off, and their nanny or babysitter often picks them up.

No stability. No security. Very little spirituality. Kids become what parents pour into them, which in turn requires sacrificing the need to 'find yourself' or 'doing your own thing'. Nurturing the next generation ensures a healthy generation. My exhortation to this young thirty-something generation of parents is: work out your differences with your spouse. Get counseling. Do whatever it takes. Parent your children. Together.

The best I can offer is that of a surrogate grandma. Teach them to embrace excellence and high standards, give them lots of love and affirmation, and most important of all, introduce them to the One who cares for them most.

Posted by Mutti at July 10, 2006 09:12 PM | TrackBack

A powerful anecdote, Mutti.

Thank you.

Posted by: MBMc at July 11, 2006 08:55 AM

You are more than welcome, MBMc; I appreciate your comment.

Posted by: Mutti at July 11, 2006 12:10 PM