There are factors in a person’s base personality, childhood experiences, etc. that determine how that person turns out. One of my attributes is that I’m quiet. Not a Chatty Cathy. Odd for a woman, I know. Also odd for a writer. I have learned to converse with others, but I walk away physically and mentally drained every time. Yes, I’m an introvert. Those who know me now might be surprised to learn that I was an extremely shy child, because I’ve learned to come out of my shell a bit and at least talk small talk with just about anyone. But if I have my ‘druthers, I always choose to keep to myself – and maybe a good book.
When it comes to parenting, living like a clam can be a problem. You’ve got little ones to constantly direct, and it takes a voice. A soft voice, a loving voice, or a dictatorial voice at times. If there’s any book reading, it’s done out loud, and the choices often boil down to The Pokey Little Puppy or Doctor Dan, The Bandage Man: two books I still have largely memorized even though my children are all in their twenties (not because I still read those books to them, but because I read them so much to them when they were tiny). Some things just stick with you like super glue. Turns out parenting doesn’t solely consist of cuddling cute wee bahbies all day for eighteen years, though moms often wish it did. All of that to say that parenthood has a way of forcing a clam to be a social butterfly.
When my kids were 10, 9, and 5, I was struck with several illnesses that laid me flat. I was bedridden for ten months, and seventeen years later, I still struggle daily. These illnesses seem to exacerbate my introverted tendencies. I have to seriously work hard at being open, talkative, and social. If you struggle to understand that, just imagine your worst flu day, add dizziness, fatigue, a migraine and other types of pain, and you have what I struggle with on a weekly bases. Sometimes daily basis. Do you feel like chatting it up when you’re afflicted? Or do you want to crawl under the covers, call into work, and snuggle up with a good book and a cuppa hot tea?
Anyway, I only explain in small detail because I’m making a case for my negligence as a parent (haha). My introvertedness and illness are not excuses, but they are reasons. Reasons I needed to do one thing differently as a parent. That is, talk more. A lot more.
Deuteronomy 11 talks about talking to your children. Not about puppies and doctors, but about His statutes, rules, and laws. Verse 19 says You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.
The admonition is to crawl out of your clam shell and be vocal at the supper table and on the way to the grocery store — whenever and wherever you are sitting together, waiting, which is a lot in our culture. To talk when you walk. To talk when you pull the covers up to their chin at night. To talk when you get them up in the morning for school or church or camp, and send them off with a Biblical truth you know they can’t forget because God’s Word does not return void (Is. 55:11).
In other words, the Bible admonishes us to indoctrinate our children with the Truth.
Why? Because wherever they go, they’re being bombarded by three enemies: the world, the flesh, and the Devil. The world and the Devil come and go, but the flesh (their own sinful nature) is always with them. They are in a relentless battle, and Deuteronomy is telling us that if we do not equip them with the Truth, they will have no way to combat the lies that their three enemies hurl at them on a constant basis.
There’s one swell thing about not wanting to talk, and that is, you tend to listen more. As a kid, I listened – a lot. I come from a long line of female chatters. Not only do they chat, but they do it all at the same time! And they still understand and hear every word of the conversation! It is, in its own way, amazing … and it drives me nuts. But you know what? I learned a lot just by hovering in the corner listening. I learned wrong. And I learned right. And by the grace of God only, I eventually chose right. I chose the Truth of Jesus Christ and have been on a path of learning His ways since I was eleven.But then … when it came to raising my own children, I had a hard time. I was determined to teach my kids about the Lord, but looking back, I know I wasn’t vocal enough. I bought the Christian children’s books and read them to each kid. I sang the right songs with them. I helped them memorize Scripture for both school and church. I did teach. But not enough. Especially not after I became ill.
It’s funny. All three of our kids, when they were teenagers, told us that they couldn’t learn from our mistakes, and that they must learn from their own. To which we replied, “That’s the stupidest thing we’ve ever heard!” Of course they could learn from our mistakes, we thought. “It’s simple,” we said. “We tell you the dumb things we did. You say you’ll never do that because your Mom and Dad did it and got burned. Capeesh?”
They didn’t capeesh. They insisted, in some areas, to acquire their own injuries and scars. And though we talked to them while sitting, walking, lying, and rising about the Truth, their decision were ultimately theirs to make.
So why am I telling you to talk to your kids so much if they’re just going to do what they want anyway?
First, because God told you to, and I’m just reiterating. Second, because you can only do what you can do. And part of what you can do is to learn from my mistake. If you’re introverted like me, you will feel like a pest, but that’s okay. Talk lots anyway. If you’re extroverted and type A, maybe you need to watch out for being too mouthy. It’s not healthy to never give a kid a break from your preaching and teaching. Maybe for once you could just get down on his or her level and play a fun game of Monopoly (okay, bad example), ya’ know? Don’t be such a tightwadded, full-time preacher. Take plenty of opportunity to express the Truth and why you believe it. Tell what God has done for you so that they have a chance to desire the same. Tell them what God says about drugs and alcohol and sex and not sharing their toys and cheating at Monopoly so the tedious game can just be over for goodness sake. But also just enjoy the game and the time spent together doing something fun or maybe nothing at all.
So talk, talk, and talk some more. Just don’t be annoying about it. Kids see right through that junk. They know a jerk when they see one. In all our talking, we also need to love and play and encourage (which all require more talking, just of a different sort). And if you get really sick or have another good reason why you can’t talk a lot, beg God to bring someone into their life who can help. Or write to them. Or do whatever you must to get them exposed to the Truth. They’ll cause a fuss, especially as teens who are sleepy and hormonal. But in the end, it’ll be worth it for all involved.
When Shaun and I talk to our kids about their rebellious streaks, they have all three told us “Mom, Dad, it’s not anything you did or didn’t do. I made my own choices. You did everything right.”
Well, no we didn’t. But they are partially right. They made their own choices. We, as parents, also make our own choices. My prayer today is that we choose to vocally raise our kids in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, and then trust God to do the rest.
This introvert is done “talking.” Thank the Lord for the written word, because if I were to have talked all of that out with you, I’d be drained. As it is, I still have a bit of energy to go play with my new black Labrador Retriever pup, who, as you can imagine, needs much verbal instruction.