Monday, April 11, 2011

Not by osmosis

Last week, Miss Calamity and I were preparing a case of chickens to can.  It was a wonderful time of working side by side, talking, laughing and just being together.  As I looked at my young daughter, I was reminded of the priceless hours I have spent working side by side with her older sister, Maid Elizabeth.  When my daughters and I work, it is never a solemn, tedious time, but a joyful, riotous display.  Just as my time spent in the kitchen with Maid Elizabeth has wrought many tender moments it has offered endless opportunities to share my values, passions and wisdom gleaned from years of living and learning.  As I stood in the kitchen with Miss Calamity, I realized that, once again, I had the great honor of passing wisdom and values to the next generation.

In the process of preparing the chickens for the jar, we were skinning them, deboning them and putting huge chunks of chicken meat on a plate to cut up and can.  I handed Miss Calamity a chicken and said "go ahead and debone the chicken and then we will cut it up and put it into a jar".  She attacked the chicken with enviable enthusiasm, however, when I looked at her chicken, it looked like the dogs had gotten to it and dismembered it with reckless abandon.  I started to cry "No!, you never do it like that", and then I remembered, I hadn't shown her how to debone a chicken.  I just assumed that she had watched me enough times to know how to properly take care of a chicken.  Of course, Miss Calamity had no idea what she was doing, she was just doing her best to get the meat off the bone.  I stopped mid-deboning, grabbed another chicken, put it on Miss Calamity's plate and explained, step by step, how to properly remove the meat from the bone.  She was thrilled!  Soon, she was expertly deboning chicken, chattering away, excitedly awaiting instructions on properly cutting the chicken for canning.  She stopped in the middle of work, looked up at me and said "Mom, thank you for teaching me how to be a woman".  Wow, talk about payback!

As we were cutting chicken, straining broth, and talking about life, it occurred to me that our children don't just pick up our lifestyle, our values or our experiences by osmosis.  We have to actively teach, show and explain why we do what we do.  Just as I can't expect Miss Calamity to know how to debone a chicken, I can't expect her to know why I believe in God, why I think being on welfare is wrong or why it is important to put other people before yourself.  I have to teach her, show her AND live it before her.

I was talking to a friend awhile back who has taken advantage of numerous welfare programs.  As we talked about state assistance, I came to find out that her father had been staunchly apposed to "government handouts".  When I asked her why she wasn't opposed to them when her dad had been dead set against them, she said that she didn't know why he didn't like state assistance.  She just assumed it was his generation!  I would bet you dollars to doughnuts that her dad wasn't opposed to welfare because of his "generation", but because he didn't want to be "beholden", he didn't want to take from anyone.  He wanted to make it on his own, with an honest days work, not on the back of his fellow man.  But, my friend's dad failed to pass his beliefs, his values, on to his children.  He didn't tell them why he did what he did.  He assumed that because he lived a certain way his children would follow suit.  That is rarely the case.

Picking chickens apart, with Miss Calamity by my side, I realized that doing the right thing in front of our children is not enough.  We have to teach them, show them, guide them.  We have to tell them why we believe what we believe.  We have to teach them to change the oil, not just watch us while we do it.  We have to engage them with the world around us.  We have to talk about what is going on in the world and why we respond to it in the way that we respond.

We can't expect our children just to absorb our beliefs and our values.  We have to be active participants in guiding and shaping their world view.  We have to express our beliefs in order to pass them on.  Our children don't learn by osmosis.  They learn by doing.  They learn by listening.  They learn by talking.

They learn by us taking the time to teach them.


  1. oh my, how right you are. several years ago i had an accident and had broken my leg. just when the garden was ready for harvesting and getting everything canned had to be done. my son wanted to help but did not know how i wanted things to be done. i had him hitch the trailer to the lawn tractor and let him drive while i picked over the garden. when canning, i sat by the stove and counter and directed "traffic" as he fetched anything i needed and lifted anything hot and heavy. he worked hard to please me but what i found most pleasing about our activities was how much he had absorbed and to this day not forgotten how to do for himself should the need arrive.

  2. Wonderful post! I spend much of my time with young people whose parents unfortunately didn't take the time to teach them why they believed what they believed. A severe lack of serious explanation on the part of parents has produced a generation who is completely confused about what to believe and how to live. I'm so grateful for people like you (and my own parents) who took the time to teach me the "whys" as well as the "whats". Thank-you!

  3. How beautifully worded! Our family so shares your thoughts on this matter. A friend shared your blog address with me thinking that our family might be blessed by it and she was so right. May God continue to teach us to be the moms and wives that He desires us, as His beloved children to be. Blessings! Karen

  4. Beautiful post. I'm learning on my own what I wish were taught to me when I was young. I have so much catching up to do! Your children are receiving such a valuable gift from your loving guidance and instruction.

  5. Wonderful!! I'm definitely posting a link to this on the parenting message board that i frequent. They'll love it, too.


  6. Something we are doing for our kids is writing out a family chatecism. We are teaching it to them constantly, however, we want it in a paper form(which can always be altered as we grow in our knowledge and also our walk with the Lord). We think this is so important to have a paper record of this kind of thing so that they can pass it on to future generations as well. They will get the knowledge first hand, but if there are things that they might forget....we want them to know! We are using Deuteronomy 6 as our model as it appears you are as well! :D Love that you posted about this! Isn't it so wonderful to see the joy in our children's eyes when they are learning what things are important to us and putting those things into practice themselves?! ;D--S

  7. "Not by Osmosis" is going up on the fridge!

  8. Moral confusion for a child is "learned".

    It is caused by having a parent, or surrogate, or friend, who they trust, who has been teaching by "telling" with NO substantive validation of example, ie.(showing and telling them, step by step).

    In time, or with repetition, when the child witnesses the mentor DOING the opposite, without validative re-teaching, mistrust and confusion takes hold.

    If this process is either repetitive in the number of contradictive examples by the instructor, or differs in the actual approach taught, the student will either rebel, strike out on their own in search of trial and error behavior and answers, or remain confused and mistrustful.

    Even with adults, when learning new techniques or skills, this teaching principle applies.

    Kudos to you for your honest teaching methods used with your children Enola.
    Your reward in later years will be children and adults who respect you and will value your wisdom. And they will be free of moral confusion.

    Even if they later chose another way, their decision will NOT be made in rebellion or because of confusion, or neglect.


  9. I need to hear this regularly, because it is so easy for me to fall into the trap of thinking that if I just do it myself, it'll get done faster...if I just live it (without explaining it), the kids will understand the reasoning (because it seems common sense to me at 40+)...
    Thanks, Enola!

    Xa Lynn

  10. Thanks for a great post, as usual!

    The truth of this is magnified when you have a child that doesn't learn the same as others, or has motor problems. We have a special blessing such as this, and there have been many times that I have done what I should have been teaching him to do, and the same goes for his father. Being the last of six children, he was probably somewhat spoiled, too.
    Fear not fellow patriots, he's a valuable contributing 11 year old boy now, trying very hard to fill the boots of his "grown up and left home" siblings. There are no days off as a parent, we are always teaching, whether it be to be great modelers and teachers of skills and behaviors, as well as beliefs, or the opposite that we are only there to feed, clothe and get them out the door clueless and dependent on others.
    Thanks Enola Gay for sharing and being a source of inspiration.


  12. Enola -

    Great post and some neat photos to go with it.

    I am both a certified firearms instructor and an audio engineer. I say that as background for this comment.

    I can't tell from the photo of Sir Knight, your son, and the handgun, if they had actually fired the gun. If they had, then eye protection for your son like Sir Knight is wearing is important. It is all too easy to get hit in the eye with a flying brass or even just some scrap of dirt.

    They were both wearing what looked like foam ear plugs. While such plugs can be effective if properly inserted, I doubt that more than 5% of the folk wearing them and thinking they are protecting their hearing are actually inserting them strictly according the the manufacturer's instructions. In such situations they think they have protection while doing permanent damage to their hearing. Hearing damage is a one way street and can't heal or recover.

    That is why I much prefer muff style hearing protectors. They are much harder to mis-use and almost always provide the protection you want.

  13. What a great post. We homeschool, and oftentimes I realize that I just expect a child to know how to do something because he/she has seen me do it so many times. We would all do well to remember the wisdom therein.

  14. Oh my! This couldn't have come at a better time. I have a 2 1/2 year old and still recieve emails from BabyCenter about my chid's development. Every once in a while I click over to read what is written. Today, I saw clicked to their site and saw an new article up that is titled "Research shows that parenting doesn't matter".
    I scanned the article and really didn't seen any basis for the research (1 man observed his twins as children to adulthood).
    Thank you Enola for your wise words!

  15. I agree with you that we have to explicit with our children. However, it was another set of statements in your post that caught my attention. You said that you don't like government assistance programs, but that you do believe you should put other people first. Doesn't this second part mean that you support gov't assistance to people who are struggling and need help. Of course, most people do not want to be in a position to need help, but it happens even to the best of us on occasions. I know the common argument when this kind of question is asked is that many people of welfare are not trying to better their life, and while this might be true (though there are many examples of when it is not), it still seems like a person who claims to put others first would be happy to give to others, especially once their own needs have been met.

  16. I'm not sure how to systematically debone a cooked chicken... at 28! Could someone explain to me or point me to a pertinent YouTube (for example) video? It's never too late to learn!