One benefit of having nine kids is the trickle-down effect that occurs when a parent is consistent with discipline. The downside, however, can be the assumption that all those wonderful lessons and values just automatically trickle down to the younger ones, or, the misguided presumption that one is parenting thoroughly. I learned this lesson the hard way one October morning.
I had homeschooled our children forever, so I had no idea that each of them did not know, understand, comprehend, and live out our family rules.
“Alexis, I am taking the older ones to the orthodontist, so that leaves you in charge. You know the rules. We’ll be home as soon as we can,” I confidently reinforced as I prepared to depart.
After this broad statement, I kissed my thirteen-year-old and all the bouncing little ones around her goodbye. I was confident Alexis knew the protocol: little ones in front of an educational video, with school-age children in the same room doing homework. This is how she had been raised, so I assumed she understood perfectly what was expected of her. However, being the teen in charge was a relatively new job for her.
Unsuspecting, my oldest kids and I piled into the car without a care in the world. A change of scenery is always welcome, even if it is to the orthodontist. A few hours passed, and all my metal-faced kids’ brackets had been adjusted and wires tightened; it was time to return home and finish our school day.
Great excitement greeted us when we walked through the front door as all the kids talked at once. I tried to decipher what they were saying, questioning my eleven-year-old first: “Annalise, you go first. What is all the excitement about?”
“Mom, a lady knocked on the door, and Alexis told her we were home alone and that we were supposed to be doing school, but we weren’t because the little ones wouldn’t sit down and. . . .” Annalise excitedly reported.
“Girls, this really isn’t a funny joke. I appreciate your humor and all, but seriously, I’m not in the mood,” I commanded with serious eyes.
“Mom! I am serious! Alexis answered the front door, and then she panicked. She didn’t know what to do, so before the lady could even say anything, Alexis blurted out everything we should never tell a stranger! The little ones and I watched the scene from behind the sofa,” Annalise continued breathlessly.
“Alexis, tell me this is a joke!” I sighed, less than enthusiastic about facing a crisis I soon learned was of my own making.
“No ma’am. It’s no joke. I’m sorry. It’s true,” she confessed.
Positive that my hair had just officially turned completely gray underneath all the bleach, I assessed the situation and understood that I was partly to blame for this crisis. The sad realization that I had dropped the ball somewhere along the way stared back at me through the eyes of Alexis, even as I lectured her a little louder than necessary. I realized my frustration was not just with my children, but with myself. While I’m convinced the very same adrenaline that instantly turned my hair gray drove me to scold her, I painfully admitted to myself that I had not been completely clear in my instructions and had then proceeded to blame Alexis for not thinking like a cautious adult!
Very crisply I stated, “Kids! When I step out for any reason, Don’t look at the door; don’t touch the door; don’t think about the door; don’t talk about the door; don’t talk about the door; don’t listen for the door; don’t wonder about the door; and whatever you do . . . don’t answer the door! Am I clear?”
It has since become a tradition that when any of the older children are left to babysit, all the kids repeat the above phrase before their babysitting adventure begins. It serves as a reminder to everyone of how we feel about the door when Mom and Dad are not home. This incident turned out to be no big deal, but I sure don’t want to miss the mark with my younger kids on more important life instructions.
This was a good reminder for me, the teacher in charge, that lessons must be repeated, and then repeated again. Our kids’ souls are too valuable for us to assume they think the way we do just because they live in the same house. This admonition is especially critical when it comes to their faith. Our devotion to the Lord Jesus does not automatically secure their relationship with Him. The subject most worthy of daily repetition is the gospel. We must continuously and purposefully instill the truths of the gospel into our children’s lives, not just by example, but by teaching. My front door serves as a daily reminder of this vital truth.