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Parent Like You Mean It: Words Matter!

Parent Like You Mean It: Words Matter! August 12, 2021

Words Matter!

Kids have no sense of time.

I remember when my oldest was a preschooler, he couldn’t verbalize the difference between something that took place yesterday, last week, or years ago. It was always, “Remember yesterday, when I was two?” (and he was four at the time). And, I blame myself for this. Between the mixed messages that my wife and I gave him regarding what “five minutes” is… well, I’m just hopeful he gets to his first college class on time next week!

Here’s what I mean… and I know you’ve done this, too! We’d be at the playground and I’d yell out, “Hey buddy, five more minutes, okay?” And, within 90 seconds, I’d be ready to go, he’d be transitioning from the swings to the slide, so I’d seize the moment…. “Alright, bud, it’s been five. Let’s jump in the car.” Then, the next day, my wife would tell him, “It’s almost lunch time. Come inside for sandwiches in five minutes. She’d then get a phone call and meanwhile, he’s having a blast playing outside… and 20 minutes later, she’s walking outside with a sandwich in hand, to which he would ask: “Has it been five minutes?” “Sure…”, she’d reply.

“Five minutes” wasn’t even a rough estimate of time. It just meant “sometime in the near future, completely and arbitrarily determined by us.”

As my son got older, we realized how this could backfire on us. “Be home by 11:00” meant (in our minds) that at 10:59, his car should already be in the driveway and his key should be opening the front door. But, in HIS mind – because of our mistakes way-back-yesterday-when-he-was-two – at 11:27, he’d come in thinking he was “on time”. After all, dinner ran late, the movie was longer than expected, he had to drive an extra friend home, then he had to get gas, and you wouldn’t believe who he ran into at the gas station… 

I didn’t care. The only thought on my mind was that I should have been able to go to sleep 27 minutes ago with everyone safe under one roof. (but we’ll deal with letting go of our teens in another podcast)

My point is that when it comes to time… over time… some of my words had lost their meaning. How could I fail so badly with my own kid?

Well, maybe “fail” is too strong of a word. After all, words matter, right? Let me set the record straight – he’s heading off to college, he’s an amazing young man, and I love him 3,000! 

But still, I’m realizing, as I look back on his swing set, slides and monkey bars days, how important our words are. It’s critical that we verbally plant the seeds throughout our children’s lives so that when – not if – they find themselves in need of help, in a moment worth celebrating, or just in the midst of a free “five minutes”, they have the freedom to talk.

Words matter.

Which brings me to something that really gets my blood boiling.

All around us, the “powers that be” keep changing what words mean – sometimes to the point where they mean nothing at all! And the effects of this willy-nilly redefinition of terms has much greater implications than just losing 27 minutes of sleep on a Friday night. 

Dudes are competing in women’s sporting events, death tolls are equivalent to sniffle tolls, lies and falsehoods are misinformation… or disinformation, depending on whatever the informationists decide, moms are “birthing people”, comedians are “problematic”, subjective opinions are “living one’s truth”, riots are mostly peaceful protests, protesters are insurgents, racism is systematic – so judging people by their character instead of the color of their skin is racist, “men” can now menstruate for the first time in human history, babies aren’t babies until they are either born or wanted, and if you decide to have them killed before they are born or wanted, you should celebrate by shouting your abortion!

I honestly can’t believe I just said all that. 

If we were using a standardized dictionary with definitions tied to objective truth, all of that word salad I just said would… SHOULD be utter nonsense!

Instead, it’s 21st century vernacular.

But, this isn’t anything new. This same message was written over 2,700 years ago when the prophet Isaiah took a look at the world around him and declared:

Look at those people! Woe to those who say good is bad and evil is good. They think light is dark and dark is light. They think sour is sweet and sweet is sour. Woe to those who think they are so smart – who are wise in their own eyes, clever in their own sight. They think they are so intelligent… 

…they have rejected and spurned the word of God.

…Therefore the Lord’s anger burns against them…

…And there is only darkness closing in as the light fades away in a black cloud. (Isaiah 5:20-21, 25, 30)

Now, am I saying that anyone who tells their kid that they’ll be leaving the playground in five minutes but actually leaves in 15 is doomed for death and destruction? No. I am saying that words matter. It matters as we raise our children with an understanding of what is right and wrong, what is healthy for them and what is destructive, what differentiates between decent people and indecent people and what is good and admirable versus what is profane and should be avoided. 

Here’s an example: I was just listening to a college orientation video that my son was watching regarding the dangers of alcohol abuse. One quote that jumped out at me was a girl saying, “…so be sure to eat some breads or proteins before you drink so that you don’t get drunk so fast.” 

Drunk so fast!?

How about… “Since you’re not yet 21, it’s actually illegal to drink alcohol. But, even under the assumption that you will decide to break those laws and partake anyway, drink responsibly, pace yourself and do not get drunk.” The art of drinking alcohol isn’t to get loaded, but to drink well. There’s a huge difference between understanding that college students do college student things… and releasing the Kraken!

Or, for those of us with younger kids: We have taught our sons – through both life lessons and our own behaviors – which words are proper and which ones are not. The words “stupid” or “fart” are ok in our house. But, swearing and profane insults are not. So, when he started working out with his new water polo team and another 9-year-old dropped an F-bomb, my son knew right away that that was inappropriate. My son even knew that it just might be a reflection of this kid’s personality and the level of respect he will show to his coaches and teammates. Because, even at age nine, my son knows that WORDS MATTER.

Now, I understand that language evolves over time. When someone trolls me, I don’t expect to be pelted with little crazy-haired gnome dolls; or, while I hope that some of my lessons may go viral some day, I don’t want anything I do to infect you and your family and send you all to the ICU.

Which brings us to the “current event” portion of our video.

Once upon a time, we, as a general populace, agreed to shut down nearly everything in life for “two weeks” to “flatten the curve”. Well, that was over a year-and-a-half ago, the curve has been flattened, based on our stated goals at the time, America’s ICU’s are no longer overwhelmed, and we have vaccinations available to every adult in the nation… yet still, the words “flatten the curve” have changed definition from “lowering the amount of hospitalizations and deaths to the point where hospitals are not overwhelmed” to now mean “eliminate any transmission of the COVID-19 virus and all of its variants, whether they be symptomatic or not harmful whatsoever”. The state-wide and regional powers that be are threatening local school leaders with cutting funding, school charters, and ultimately jail time, if they dare practice their independence in consideration of the individuals and families they care for and educate. An education environment that once proudly flourished under the banner of “School Choice” is now shackled with “do as we say or else”, in order to “flatten the curve”. 

Like I said: Words matter.

If our public grammar and middle schools truly do exist to educate and develop our youth into strong young men and women of wisdom, intellect, skill and character, why are the current policies masked behind the veil of “we’re all in this together” and “we need to protect the children” when the children aren’t in any more danger than from the flu, pneumonia or chicken pox? And, if we’re worried about their teachers and school staff getting infected by our kids’ snot bubbles, they have every opportunity to be vaccinated and/or inoculated and to take care of themselves. 

Look, I have asthma. Three of my sons have battled it. But, we have never burdened other people with the responsibility of keeping us breathing freely. My wife and my son battle migraines. Yet, we don’t ban flashlights, desk lights or the sun from existence on the off chance that they may be adversely affected by bright light. 

We’ve gotten to the point where the severe danger of mass death and hospitals being overwhelmed is no longer at our doorstep. And, we need to live accordingly, beginning with teaching our children what liberty is.

In the Fifth AND Fourteenth Amendments, our Constitution defines liberty as freedom from arbitrary and unreasonable restraint upon an individual. So, who decides what is arbitrary and unreasonable? Well, that can be debated and agreed upon. By definition, though, by our very nature and as U.S. citizens, we are set free from unlegislated, authoritative controls on our lives. And, since words DO matter, by definition, we ought to be liberated – FREE – to operate our local businesses, schools, churches and communities without fear, without mandates, and without lockdowns. 

As Senator Ted Cruz put it, “[They] do not respect your liberty, they do not respect your right to make your choices about your health care, about your children, about your lives.”

And, to quote his colleague, Senator Rand Paul, we need to stand up and say, “Absolutely not. Not this time. I choose freedom.”

And THOSE are words that matter!

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