Training Up a Child (2014-10-15 Daily)
Train up a child in the way he should go,
And when he is old he will not depart from it.
—Proverbs 22:6 (NKJV)
I sit at the breakfast table and glance at today’s Lesson Plan, Hannah’s future laid out block-by-block, printed in my wife’s handwriting, clear and concise, like my seven-year-old’s resolve. Sunshine pours through the glass, smudged with the evidence of long-fossilized window clings of holidays past, and splashes across the table. Like my first cup of coffee, its warmth awakens my purpose and straightens my demeanor. With no hesitation I relinquish my own plans for the day and prepare to execute a higher calling. After all, Mary and I are, indeed, Hannah’s teachers. Today it’s my turn to march forth with my head held high and lead homeschool.
Hannah sits in the craft room, waiting, whistling, passing the moment pitch perfect and wide awake. She’s still dressed in pajamas, still enveloped in after-sleep happiness, still wearing a childishness that’s beginning to fray around the edges like a much-loved nursery blanket. Oh yeah, she’s still got me wrapped around her little finger—and her ring finger, and her middle finger and her index finger. And, alas, even her thumb. On both hands. It’s good to be a dad.
Her face turns toward me as I walk into the formal-dining-room-turned-classroom. Her brown eyes smile, her lips follow suit. I breathe in, I breathe out, I sit down. I did this. We did this, Mary and I. We made this seven-year-old, God’s daughter, our child—brilliant, high-spirited, scary smart, our responsibility—with gladness. I look at her, this exquisite young lady with her Daddy’s looks and her Mama’s attitude, this sprig of a child, four foot tall and thirty-seven pounds, this living joy wearing her emotions on her sleeve and her assertiveness on the tip of her tongue … I look at her and fall in love all over again and ask myself if I’m really, truly doing a good job as a dad. One look and I know the answer, despite my shortcomings.
“Drawing today, Daddy?” she asks, voice drenched in sweetness, eyes radiating hope.
“Drawing,” I agree. Her smile spreads even further and crosses into my heart, demonstrating joy without a word, defining love without a doubt. I suggest copying cartoons today and she asks which one. I conjure up the internet and copy, print and lay before her the brilliance of Charles Schulz. Of all the characters I set before her, she chooses to copy Lucille van Pelt. Yep, Lucy. I pick Snoopy because he’s perched on the ridge of his doghouse roof with a typewriter at his feet and a paw resting on his chin. He’s looking up into the sky. Thinking. Creating. Reflecting. Yes, Snoopy it is.
We scribble for an hour, first Peanuts then on to Garfield, Jim Davis’ lasagna-eating cat. We draw with tongues sticking out, two perfectionists struggling to turn fun into work, but the point of this time together reasserts itself as we snicker over a spider getting the best of the fat orange tabby. “National Stupid Day,” Hannah says, giggling. “Dad, the spiders are celebrating National Stupid Day.” Sounds like a great reason to have a party.
Science and Math, History and Geography soon call to my practical side, so we put away the pencils and markers, hang up our masterpieces from the art line draped across the wall, and open Language Arts, Unit 2. I read, Hannah listens, and I turn her loose so can I finish up in the bathroom. Five blessed minutes of silence drift past before the door bursts open without a knock.
“Dad, this was too easy,” she declares. She stands in front of me holding her workbook open to a word search game that offered no challenge except, I suspect, to the improvement of her eye rolling skills. “See, all the words are in a line.” No vertical, no diagonal, no backwards. Nope, all the words lay on each other like a stack of orthographic pencils.
I set my cell phone down on my lap. “Good job,” I say. “Go ahead and work on the next section.” She gleefully leaves, I gleefully return to cleaning up email on my iPhone. One of our dogs gleefully traipses through the open door and greets me with a quick sniff.
Hannah finishes her unit, moves on to the next. As I rejoin her and begin to review her work, my critical eye starts picking off misspelled words and incomplete sentences strewn across the pages of the Language Arts and Science modules. One-by-one I blast each mistake with double-barreled attitude, and one-by-one Hannah corrects them with mounting frustration. Inch-by-inch “dud” becomes “bud,” “dasedall” becomes “baseball,” giggling becomes silence becomes arguing becomes no fun. I sit at the craft room table and glance at my watch. I capitulate to tension and declare “good enough.” And it is. Better, in fact, despite my impatience.
What a blessed man I am, I reflect as I drive Hannah to gymnastics, playing the animal game, getting beat yet again. What a blessed man I am, I ponder as I drive home after dropping off my amazing child, grateful God chose Mary and I to steward His daughter in this big, scary, sometimes overwhelming world. What a blessed man I am, I consider as I recall the wisdom of Psalm 22:6, to train up my child in the way she should go so she won’t depart from it when she gets old.
As I walk into the house and close the garage door, I push aside the to-do’s gnawing my heels, sit down at my desk, and allow myself this moment to ruminate at the keyboard. God placed in my hands the honor and the responsibility to train up my child in the way she should go. And I am. God placed in my hands the privilege to pour out my knowledge and the obligation to correct my own flaws and prevent them, as best I can, from passing on to her. And I do. God placed in my hands the privilege of raising up a warrior, a daughter of the Most High God, a princess, a fighter, an ambassador. And, by God, I will. I am old, and I have not departed from it. And when she is old, neither will she.
Copyright ©2014 by David C. Hughes