When our three-year old told us, “Daniel disobeyed God and the lions ate him!” we started to realize that what we teach our children is not always what they understand.
Case in point, our five-year old was “reading” the story of Elijah this morning. “Elijah was fed by raisins,” he read.
The stories seem clear enough to us when we read them to our children, but somehow input does not always equal output.
I should have known this already since my university students often understand less than I think they do. I remember teaching two semesters of IELTS preparation to one group. (IELTS is an international English language test.) After it was all over, one of my better students approached me and informed me that he was planning on studying abroad and wanted to take the IELTS exam. He then proceeded to ask me some very basic questions about the format and content of the test. It made me wonder how my students could survive two semesters and still understand so little. It would be nice to place all the blame on the students, but I think half is mine.
This morning our five-year old saw two thermoses that we never use on top of a cabinet and asked to play with them. All kids like things with lids that open and close. You can stick stuff inside and tote it around, so a thermos is a perfect toy.
Later in the day he asked me, “Daddy, can I go inside and play with the furnace?” My heart stopped. I had no idea why he would want to play with our furnace. I could just imagine him happily fiddling with all the knobs and levers and then burning our house to the ground.
Then it hit me: “You want to play with the thermos?”
As he played with the thermos, I overheard him reciting the story of Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego and the fiery furnace.
“It’s a thermos, not a furnace,” I corrected.
The distinction was lost on him.
About a week ago, our three-year old surprised us at the dinner table by telling us, “Jesus told the people not to throw food!”
I knew that Jesus calmed a storm, but I hadn’t heard that he calmed a food fight. This was certainly out of left field.
When we asked for clarification, he was even more emphatic: “Jesus said don’t push food and don’t throw food.”
My wife finally figured out that he was referring to the feeding of the 5000 when Jesus told the disciples not to throw away the leftovers but to gather them up in baskets. Since we tell him not to throw things in the house, it only made sense to him that Jesus also told people not to throw.
We tried to explain that throw away means to dispose of something whereas throw is simply launching something into the air.
He was still adamant that Jesus told his disciples not to throw or push food. Throwing is on the toddler list of no-no’s (along with biting, hitting, and running with scissors), so it was only a small leap of logic for him to assume that Jesus also forbade pushing (in this case pushing food).
“Can you sing the song about not pushing food?” he asked us. We know lots of kids’ songs, but not this one.
“We don’t know that song,” we replied. “Can you sing it for us?”
He paused dramatically as he mentally searched for the words and melody. We waited, unsure what was going to happen next.
“Well, are you going to sing the song?” we asked.
“It’s still downloading,” he answered.
We could hardly contain our laughter, but he excused himself to use the bathroom and the moment seemed lost. Then, we heard singing coming from behind the bathroom door. Apparently the song had “downloaded” because we could hear him crooning:
“It’s true. It’s truuuuue. No pushing the food.”
Below: our kids reading their toddler Bible storybooks.