This week-end, Kristin and the boys came to have dinner with us on Sunday. We have make it a habit to have dinner together each week so the boys stay grounded and connected with us. After grilling hamburgers, we roasted marshmallows in the fire pit next to the patio and had s’mores which is always a treat for the kids. As we sat outside, the conversation turned to behavior and the expectations we have for manners at the dinner table when the kids eat at our house.
For starters, one of the boys always says grace before we start eating. The kids take turns and sometimes, each of them says a word of prayer. Then, we require that the boys ask for things they would like to have passed to them and they are to use the proper utensils for the foods they are eating. When they are finished with eating, they must ask to be excused from the table.
The conversation turned to a discussion of oldest children. Connor, Kristin and I are all oldest kids. And there is something strange that kind of binds us together. I am sure that it will be the same with Jill’s son Drew as he gets older as well, because he is a member of the oldest kid club also. To cut to the chase, oldest kids usually have a built in sense of responsibility for taking care and watching out for their younger brothers and sisters.And sometimes they stand in the wings and just kind of look over the situation. Middle children and younger siblings just don’t have the same frame of reference, although they each have their own unique perspectives as well.
I can also tell you that oldest kids tend to get amped up a little more than younger offspring. Janet, as a middle child, gets far less agitated about stuff than I do. And I notice, particularly in Connor, that he tends to be a little more studious that his younger brothers. He also tends to be a little quieter and has that sixth sense about what is going on in the family. He has come to trust me quite a bit and tonight he said he realized that everyone in the family came to me when there is a problem. And that gives him a sense of security.
But he also wants to learn how to lead so when the time comes, he can step up and carry on the tradition. Quite lofty thoughts for a ten year old, but not so different from the times that I used to sit with my grandfather and talk about exactly the same things. Each week when I went over to my grandparent’s home, Grandpa would tell me about the responsibilities of being an oldest child. He focused on my need to take care of my mother in the event that anything ever happened to my Dad. He also charged me with the responsibility of watching out for Doug and Ken, my younger brothers, and even expected me to put my own life on hold to make sure that the others were taken care of.
I know Grandpa did all these things when his own mother died when he was 13. He never forgot his roots and wanted to ensure that my mother, his only daughter, would be taken care of if anything happened to Dad. It just so happens that Grandpa was right. My own father died when I was 25 and I did step up to watch over Mom. Connor has experienced something similar when he watched his father and mother get divorced. So he has developed a similar protective streak to take care of his Mom, our daughter.
In a way, it is kind of interesting to watch other generations come up learning some of the same stuff I did. Only this time, I am the teacher instead of the student. Aside from things like manners, taking care of parents, and watching over younger siblings, there are many other things that we should be teaching our kids. Religion and the love of God for His children are among them. Tonight’s verse is from Proverbs 22:6, “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” It’s a great verse that can really keep us grounded and highlights our responsibility to raise our children well.
My encouragement this evening is that our children are the hope of the future and they won’t and can’t learn the way to do things unless we teach them. A very important part of their education is to expose them to the knowledge of a loving God and help them in their faith journey. My prayer is that you will be open to the questions your children ask and if you can’t answer them, please find someone who can. A pastor or minister will be pleased to help you with getting your children, or grandchildren, on the path to a faith filled life. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…