Like you, I have several different labels that people who know me use about me. You might know me as a columnist, an author, a speaker, a father, and a pastor. But, to my five-year-old granddaughter Madeleine, I'm Oupa. That means grandfather in the language of Afrikaans. That name carries all kinds of responsibilities with it. I need to be funny, spend time with her, bring her a treat, and chase after her. I do that for my two other granddaughters and my grandson too.
Let me share a real-life event that my daughter Kristin, who is Madeleine's mother, wrote to me about years ago. If you are a parent, an Oupa, a Nana, or want to be a future parent, please pay attention to Kristin’s story.
“Dad. I have to tell you about a little Madeleine adventure. Yesterday, Madeleine, Tessa (Madeleine's little sister), and I went to a department store. Madeleine saw a stuffed Clifford (the big red dog) and wanted it instantly. Oupa, you have seen the mountain of stuffed animals that she has and doesn't use anymore. However, she wanted a Clifford, so here is the deal we made.
Her Daddy and I were not going to buy the Clifford for her, but we suggested to her that she could go through her stuffed animals and pick out the ones she doesn't play with anymore. Since we were going to have a yard sale soon, she could have her very own table and sell her stuffed animals to make money to buy Clifford.
She did a great job! She asked people if they wanted to buy a stuffed animal. On her own, she walked up to one lady and asked, “Would you like to buy a stuffed animal for your child? We have one for boys.” She said that because most of her stuffed animals were pink or more girl looking. She would take their money and say, “Thank you.” When I prompted her, she would even say, “Have a nice day.”
When no one was at our home during the garage sale, she would lament. But as soon as a car drove into our cul-de-sac, she would shriek, “Look, Mama…a CUSTOMER!”
Madeleine made enough sales to buy the Clifford she wanted and even had the extra money to buy a Cleo - Clifford's purple doggie pal. A couple of people gave a dollar or two as a donation to the Clifford fund after hearing her story. (And being as cute as a button didn't hurt either.-Ed's note).
This event was an excellent lesson for Madeleine. It was wonderful to see her motivated, courteous, and friendly. Of course, Clifford was a big motivation. We are proud of our girl."
I’m aware many parents are busy these days with both working at home and child-rearing at home during these Coronavirus times. But remember that just a few unique things, like Kristin, did for Madeleine, can go a long way in developing the character, initiative, and responsibility that children will need when they grow up. Don't just spend time with your children; invest time with your children too. Remember, it's not only the quantity of time that counts with children. It’s also the quality time.
This article is not about shaming anyone. I promise - guiltless! But sometimes we need a bit of a reminder that raising children is a full-time job, too, that could be helpful to both you and the children. And, with most children, a little quality time investment can produce huge returns.
Jesus made time for children during a time when children were considered insignificant. Just think of it. Jesus was on a mission from the Father that was extremely busy and intense. He had a job just like you. But on one occasion, Jesus' disciples tried to stop children from coming to Jesus because he was so busy. Here’s a Bible account of what Jesus thought about children in Matthew 19:13-15.
One day children were brought to Jesus in the hope that he would lay hands on them and pray over them. The disciples shooed them off. But Jesus intervened: “Let the children alone, don’t prevent them from coming to me. God’s kingdom is made up of people like these.” After laying hands on them, he left.
Think about it. The first person to recognize Jesus was an unborn child. We know that unborn child as John the Baptist. Perhaps Jesus returned the recognition to the masses of children overlooked in the madness of those times. Don’t forget your children. Don't shoo them off as those well-meaning disciples did.
Fyodor Dostoevsky says, “The soul is healed by being with children.”
It’s like ‘Re-Ju-Ven-A-Tion!’
Here are some illuminating quotes about children that are good mental food for us. “History will judge us by the difference we make in the everyday lives of children.”
Nelson Mandela. “It’s easier to build strong children than to repair broken men (or women).”
Fredrick Douglass. “Adults are just outdated children.”
Dr. Seuss. “Children will listen to you after they feel listened to.”
Let’s close with this final thought: “Children are not only innocent and curious but also optimistic and joyful and essentially happy. They are, in short, everything adults wish they could be.”