What is hair made from?
Do lizards go to heaven?
Why do we stop at red lights?
Who’s your mom’s mom?
Why do I have to tell Jesus what I did wrong when He already knows?
In our house with six kids, a menagerie of outside pets, and two often exhausted parents, our kids’ questions kept us on our toes and sometimes pushed me to the edge. Questions ranged from cute to confounding.
And I bet you too deal with more than one child asking questions at the same time, and always, it seems, when mom is busy with other tasks.
Nothing like trying to finish dinner and having to explain where babies come from. Or juggling laundry and a sibling’s homework and answering, “How small are the people on the radio?” Or while on the phone taking care of something important, hearing that little voice asking, “Why did the fox kill our baby chickens?”
Phew. And it didn’t stop at bedtime: Does God sleep? What does His bedroom look like? Is He really real?
Always it seemed the lights-out hour was delayed because that’s when my kids wanted to talk. No doubt it was often a delay tactic, but I also knew questions came because they saw I was focused on them as I tucked in each one for the night and prayed for them.
My kids were smart. They knew I was distracted much of the other time during the day. So I tried to patiently answer a few questions at bedtime. Even one honest answer of one question from each of my six made for a long, drawn out bedtime many nights.
Is it even worth the time? Why did this matter in my home? Does this matter in your home?
One of my favorite writers said the family is a perpetual relay of truth. Perpetual. What a great word for the race of parenting!
Remember watching the Olympics last August? The relay, both in swimming and in track and field, was one of the most exciting races because it is both an individual race; each leg must be run well with a smooth hand-off, and it’s a team race; the combined performances by each athlete determine the final outcome. Will they earn a place on the podium or miss by hundredths of seconds?
When you engage your children’s questions you are participating in a relay of life. You are helping them learn about every subject related to God’s world as their first and most important teacher. But most importantly you are teaching them about God Himself by what you say and how you live.
Your home is the place where that transfer of knowledge happens and the baton hand off of faith takes place. Like athletes who spend years training, so parents learn over the years how to make a smooth hand off as they practice transferring faith to their children, members of the next generation.
And not unlike an athlete, who is exhausted at the end of his or her leg in the race, moms and dads are often panting at the end of each day, and as they near the final lap with each child. Just as world-class athletes must keep pushing all the way to the end, so too must parents.
Here are four helpful training tools to equip you as a parent while you relay the truth to your children in all of these mundane moments:
- Look to the God who called you to this. Even though you are learning as you go, you are not alone. Jesus prays for us (Romans 8:34) and so does the Holy Spirit! Learn to depend more and more on the willing help God is so eager to give you for this race. Ask Him how to answer those faith questions that leave you shaking your head incredulously. Ask Him about the other ones too, since He is Lord over all. He delights in our questions to Him unlike we mortals who too frequently become impatient. Teach your children to ask God all their questions too.
- Look to parents who have gone before you. I hope that in sharing my experiences, you can see that you are not the only mom who’s ever been embarrassed from your 2-year-old’s bathroom stall query, “Momma, is that a man in the girl’s bathroom? But why is her hair so short?” Like every athlete who hears the cheers of the crowd in the stands and is strengthened by that support, so we are also surrounded by a cloud of witnesses watching us run our race. They have finished their laps in the relay of truth and are cheering for us as we finish ours. You who are parents today have both the witnesses in the gallery of heaven watching and cheering and you have those of us still on earth who have finished our parenting journey and want to be your mentors, cheerleaders, and prayer support.
- Look to those running this relay beside you. Sometimes you just need to know you’re not the only one smiling and explaining away, “Mimi, why do you say mean things all the time? Mommy said you did.” Be willing to share honestly with your friends and listen to their stories too. Find time to laugh about some of the crazy and embarrassing moments while reminding each other how important the questions are.
- Don’t leave all the asking to your kids. While it is important to focus on your children’s questions and answer them authentically, it is also important to ask your children questions. Ask how they feel when going through a difficult time. Then listen. Help them articulate emotions. Empathize, affirm, hug, and lead your children to the source of all truth. You can thank Jesus that He knows our every sorrow, feels our griefs, and will someday make everything right. Read some verses and show your child where to find them in the Bible. Teach your child where to ultimately find answers and comfort so that one day your child can do it alone.
Passing the truth to the next generation is a relay race more important than any Olympic contest, for the rewards last for eternity. The goal is that your children will run the race without stopping, without falling, without dropping the baton, and they will continue passing it on to their children’s generation.
Your home is the training facility for your children’s future. All the questions, answers, and even the “I don’t know but let’s ask God to help us understand,” are modeling authentic faith for your children.
Your home is a relay of truth. And you’re going for the gold of a lasting legacy that withstands the test of time.