There are concepts and beliefs as a parent that we go out of your way to teach. Starting with little things like mama and dada and the ABC's and then moving into the big stuff like faith and what we stand for. We thoughtfully orchestrate moments that allow our little ones to learn without them even knowing it. Sitting down with connectable toys to teach the baby "in and out" which looks to him an awful lot like play time or grabbing a pencil and paper to help the oldest one write a letter to daddy which feels like a lot of fun because he's never done it before. Reading them Bible stories so that the word of God penetrates them while they are just excited to be read to. All of these moments accumulate over the days, weeks, and years to make up a lifetime of learning.
And then there are the moments we don't plan. When life presents itself in an unexpected manner and you grab onto the opportunity and make a learning experience out of it. In elementary education we called this a teachable moment. These don't just happen in the classroom, these happen in your home as well and as a parent I take advantage of that whenever I can.
Today just such a moment presented itself. Late last night my sister-in-law texted me to tell inform me that my 8-week old niece was in the er. As the night went on they discovered she had a severe UTI and would need to stay for observation. So this morning as I was easing into the day with my boys I took a moment to share with my 4 1/2 and 3 1/2 year old that their cousin was sick in the hospital and that we should take a moment to pray for her. Right then Nathan (the 4 year old) clasped his hands, shut his eyes and spoke a prayer out loud on Sienna's behalf. And then we went about our day. But as the day continued we learned that things were a little more serious and that baby Sienna has a benign tumor on one of her kidneys and will be needing surgery.
Now at this point I had some options in regards to what I would tell the boys. How much do you share with little ones in these situations? I am sure each of us would answer differently and it would depend on the kid but in my case I decided to fill them in on the basics of what was happening. I told the boys that Sienna had something that wasn't good for her in her stomach and that they were going to have to take it out by doing something called surgery. I explained that surgery meant they had to cut her open. Nathan says with big eyes, "But that will hurt her!" I said, "Yes, it will hurt. But it will make her better." Then he says, "But if they cut her open she will be broken forever." I stopped for a minute and then looked right in his eyes and told him that she won't be broken forever, that the doctors are there to help Sienna and that when they are done with the surgery they will fix her back up. I explained that we didn't need to worry but that instead we should pray. Pray for Sienna, and for the doctors, and for her mommy and daddy and sister so that they won't be scared. So we did. We prayed.
For some of you, this may be seem like too much information for children that are not even school-aged. But to me it felt like the right moment to teach them that sometimes things in life seem scary and we don't understand them but that we can trust God and turn to him in prayer. "When I am afraid, I will trust in you." (Psalm 56:3) I am thankful for moments like this - not because I want loved ones to be in the hospital but because they allow me to model my faith for my children. The more times I get the chance to do that, the more likely there will come a day that they are the ones suggesting we should pray instead of me. And on that day I will being doing cartwheels inside...just like when they first said mama and knew they were calling me and just like that first time they said their ABC's all by themselves. Because I will know they got it. Really got it. And I will be reminded of why I do what I do each day.