Sunday, September 15, 2013

The Most Important Thing

All over Pinterest, I keep seeing tons and tons of posts on "things your child needs to know by age ___".  I know it's because of the time of year it is- when people are sending their kids off to school for the first time, or when parents of 4 year olds are realizing that this is the last full year they will have with their child before they do go off to school.  However, after looking at some of the lists and reading what some random person thinks Kate should know by age 2 or 3, it made me think a little bit harder.

While I don't necessarily disagree with any of the things I've seen, I don't necessarily agree with them either.  In all honesty, we do spend time teaching Kate to count, say her ABC's, recognize colors, etc.  However, I don't think those are the most important things for her to learn right now.  What do I want her to learn?  Well, I guess they're more of the intangible things.  Things that will help her to have good character.  Things that are valuable in LIFE, but not necessarily in school.

1. To be polite.
This one is big for us.  "Please", "thank you", and "you're welcome" go a LONG way. So do ma'am and sir.  It's a work in progress.  Kate does a decent job of saying thank you.  We're working on the others.  But the definition of being polite goes beyond the manners.

po·lite /pəˈlīt/
  1. 1.
    having or showing behavior that is respectful and considerate of other people.

I want her to be able to recognize when someone else needs help, and jump in. I want her to take initiative.  I want her to be respectful.  Don't interrupt.  Is this asking a lot of a 2 year old?  Sure.  But there is no better time than now to start teaching her these things.

2. To be honest. 
Isn't it fun when you ask your child a question about something they've done, when you already KNOW the answer, and they lie right to your face? Yeah. That's already started.

- Kate, did you go to the bathroom in your diaper?
- No (while adamantly shaking her head "no".)
- Really? Because I can smell it and it is terrible.
- No, I fine! (as she is pushing me away from her.)

While the things she lies about now really aren't all that important, it's still a lie. And if we just keep letting the little lies slide by without any correction, she won't think twice about even bigger lies.

3. To share.
Right now Kate is an only child, so she doesn't get this one very well.  At home, she doesn't have to share with anyone, except for Mommy and Daddy.  And unless she has a really great looking cookie that I want a piece of, there's not much else that she has to share with either me or Kevin.  We're in the process of adopting another child, so Kate is going to have to learn the whole sharing concept the hard way. I mean how do you teach a kid to share, when there is no one for her to share with?

Of course this is an important concept for kids to grasp, but it goes way beyond childhood. Sharing starts to teach children to think of someone besides themselves. It starts to teach them how to be unselfish, and that is something that I most definitely want Kate to know.  We all struggle with selfishness.

4. To have compassion. 
It made my mommy heart proud last year when Kate's teachers at MDO told us that she was the "consoler" of the class.  Kate never really had problems when we would drop her off.  Kevin would drop her off in her room, and she would happily go right in to play.  Some of the children had attachment issues, and weren't so happy about their moms and dads leaving them.  They would cry, and sometimes there would be more than one kid crying when Kevin dropped Kate off.  Apparently, Kate got very upset with the crying and would try to console them by rubbing them on their backs.

She was just 1 at the time that this was happening, so I can't really credit it to anything we taught her.  I guess that's just part of her nature.  However, it's a characteristic I hope she continues to have for the rest of her life. We live in America, and while our country has it's own problems, we're still very blessed.  Kate has clothes to wear, food to eat, and a house with electricity to live in.  Beyond the basics, she is blessed with tons of people who love her (more than I could name).  She has it a LOT better than most people in 3rd world countries and a LOT better than many of the people she will come into contact with on a day to day basis, whether that is in school, at a sports practice, or in the grocery store.  I hope she recognizes how well she has it, and that she doesn't take it for granted.  I also hope that she recognizes that she can help others.  More than that, I hope she has the desire to help others in whatever way she can.

5. To love Jesus. 
To me, this is the main one.  If she gets this one, she'll recognize the importance of the other 4.  If she loves Jesus, she'll understand that He wants us to show compassion.  He wants us to be polite, be honest and share. They all go together. So this one is my main focus- to teach Kate to love Jesus. It's one I pray about every day.  You can't MAKE anyone love Jesus.  Even if you could, that wouldn't be true love.  That's why we have free will.  So I can't make her love Jesus, but I can teach her about who Jesus is and why her Daddy and I love him so much.  I can teach her the stories of the Bible, and one day she will see how Jesus' birth, death and resurrection were planned from the very beginning of time. I can pray with her and for her. And I will. Every day.

So if Kate goes off to kindergarten in a few years, and she doesn't know how to read yet, I'm not stressing. In fact, I can pretty much guarantee you that she WON'T know how to ready before kindergarten, unless her preschool does a really great job.  Most people in my generation, including me, didn't know how to read at age 3, and I don't think it held me back in any way whatsoever. So when I see those lists of things Kate needs to know by Age 3, well, I'm planning on ignoring them. My focus is on other things.

If we can teach her what I consider 5 of the most important things by kindergarten, then I'll be thrilled, but I know that won't be the case.  These are the types of things you have to work on your entire life.

Let's be honest.
Are you always polite? Nope.
Are you always honest?  Nope.
Do you always share with others?  No, again.
Do you always have compassion?  No.
Do you always love Jesus?  Yet again, no. (When you sin, you're definitely not loving Jesus in that moment.)

So while I know that these aren't things that she will fully comprehend and embrace at age 2, or 3, or 4....  I'm just hoping we can help create a solid foundation that she can build on her entire life.  So for now, I won't stress out over the ABC's, or the 123's, because my focus for Kate is on something a little bit bigger.


  1. All very valuable lessons indeed!

  2. I agree. I feel like if my son knows and loves Jesus then so much else will fall into place. That's my husband and I's desire - for him to know how much he is loved by Him and how the grace of the Father is the most beautiful thing in the world. I like your post here - it's so easy for us parents to get weighted down by the all the things we should be doing, teaching, learning, etc...this is a great reminder of what's important. Thanks Kelley!

  3. They're all great lessons for a child to learn. I hope she learns to share well, without too many issues. And she was a 'consoler' at 1? That's adorable!


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