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.