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The Train Verse

The Train Verse

There's an important verse in the Bible that every parent should know. I've been surprised lately how many “Christian” mothers I've bumped into who've never heard of it.

Maybe the churches around here in Michigan aren't sermonizing on this one, or not lately. Maybe these mothers went back out to the lobby to get another Starbucks crappaccino and another donut instead of listening to the sermon. Maybe the removal of hymns from churches, and the substitution of a full FIFTEEN minutes of really boring, really talentless, really INANE music, repeated seven times in a vain attempt to infuse the five-word, three-chord drivel with some degree of meaning has left the minister with little time to develop a sermon in the first place. Maybe everyone's deaf because of the hyperactive drummer, banging away with the back of the drumsticks for added volume, yet set behind a plexiglass shield to keep him from thumping the rest of the talentless rock band off the stage (And yet they then defeat the purpose of the plexiglass wall by giving the drummer his own microphone! Uh.....?).

Anyway, I call it “The Train Verse”. It's Proverbs 22:6 and it says, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.”

This verse is very comforting on the one hand, and quite discouraging on the other. It's quite discouraging to realize that it takes YEARS to get a child to learn some concepts. It seems silly to start teaching a child to clean up his toys or his room or to do learn household chores as a small child, when his motor skills aren't even fully developed, when his attention span is so short, when he's surely going to produce an inadequate result, and when you're going to have to take the extra time to redo the entire chore anyway. Seems like a smarter idea just to do the jobs yourself and wait until the child is older and will learn these lessons much more quickly. Ahhhhh....but there's the rub. Things are not as they “seem”. If you wait until later on, until that child can easily accomplish a task he doesn't want to do (which is any and every task except play or watching TV), he will simply refuse to do it! What he has learned in the meantime, as he was growing, was not just fine motor skills and a longer attention span, he has learned “attitude”. You have to start kids out very young with the idea that they are part of a family, and a family is a TEAM. And everyone on a team has jobs to do. And everyone has jobs to do that they don't like or want to do. That's just LIFE. You'd better get them started on the household chores very young, while they think it's FUN to imitate Mommy or Daddy (meaning while they're stupid), while they're willing to work for just praise and smiles, and maybe a cookie. If you wait until later on, they'll try to coerce you to PAY them to do just what is their own part in the team, never mind something above and beyond. And they refuse to work for minimum wage. They get an incredibly GRANDIOSE idea of what their UNSKILLED labor is worth. And not long after, they have a really hard time accepting the disgusting tasks and poor pay that come with their first part-time jobs.

So this verse is discouraging because it implies that you will be training and teaching, and teaching and nagging for YEARS before you see the payoff. Parenthood should steal the slogan from the Marines - “The toughest job you'll ever love.” And the stakes are so high! It's such a long term investment – and the returns don't show up for at least TWO DECADES ! And you don't really know if you're being effective until it's too late.

And going into it, you need to have the mindset that your kids will only absorb and accept HALF of what you teach them. So you'd better choose your teachings carefully, live carefully out in the open (because they're watching), and not waste any time. If you teach/say one thing, but live lazily on some moral, they're going to only accept (obey/take to heart) HALF of what they see, and you just showed them you only believe HALF of what you taught. That leaves one quarter of that moral or ethic. Ooops !

Train up a child in the way he will go and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”

The encouraging part is that SOMEday, your child/young adult will return to the good that you taught him, but only when he's ready. Not greatly encouraging, to my taste. That leaves me with lots of time to worry about what bad consequences my kid has to slog through along the way, before he realizes I wasn't the IDIOT he thought I was. Before he realizes that “old fashioned” might just be “best fashioned”. Before he proves me right and starts tightening up his own life because he has to live it in front of his own young kids and be an example to them – and that they will only accept HALF of what he's teaching them – so he'd better start out WAY on top. (Dear God, PLEASE help me to keep my big mouth shut when this occurs, or at the very least please keep me from laughing right in his face !)

My sons are now just turned 24, and an old 21. A year ago, I was walking around vacillating between elation and pride to defeat and despair. Depending on the child, depending on the month, depending on the moral or topic or lesson, it seemed I had either been victorious in getting through to them, or an abysmal failure. OK, I exaggerate. I've been doing the parenting checkup along the way, and gauging their progress, and they are not “abysmally failing” in any area. But there have been some areas in which this Mom, who has been “parenting for excellence” as I call it, has not been satisfied with the visible results. (Far too many parents nowadays are satisfied with doing just an OK job. They are “parenting for adequacy”; they are adequate parents – or less. I abhor bratty kids and I wouldn't even settle for “OK” kids. I want exceptional citizens, exceptional husbands, and fantastic fathers.  And if it's a truism that they will only adopt half of your morals or what you teach them, my task was daunting indeed. I had to start out at 202 % !

But having been at this for 23 long years, I was really getting discouraged. I kept looking at that verse, that promise of God's - “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it. Even history bears out the truth of this verse. Nearly all kids come back from the rebellion of their teenage years to a more settled life of morals, ethics, and sanity once they become fully adults. Sooner or later. But that was the worst part of the verse ! It wasn't that I didn't trust God to fulfill this promise, it's that “and when he is OLD” part.

My burning question was.... HOW OLD ??!!???

How long do I “just wait and see” if a trait has been absorbed, or when do I decide the kid still needs some more training? When does continued teaching cross over into nagging? And you CAN'T ask your kid this question ! He'll say, “before the first time you ever tell me! You're Always nagging!” And then he'll get to use his favorite word, the only three syllable word he can spell since learning it in middle school – You're so “ANNOYING” ! (As if they have a right to never be annoyed !  If I could steal a phrase from my mother's generation - “If I had a penny for every time he annoyed ME, I'd be a rich man!”)

So........ HOW OLD ??? I found out from a psychiatrist, who had a number of extra medical degrees that medical studies have shown that the human brain is not fully finished maturing – in the most important matters like “consequences of your actions” - until age TWENTY-FIVE !!  So there you have it. The very FIRST milestone by which you can set your sights to gauge this Bible verse. And probably NOT coincidentally, age 25 is when that whopping price they pay for their car insurance as a reckless Young Driver falls off. So automobile statistics echo the findings of these medical studies – that at age 25, our kids will finally have “grown a brain” ! Culturally, this also corresponds to when a large percentage of them have finished their secondary education (code word for continued adolescence accompanied by large quantities of alcohol and stupidity), gotten married and just started having kids. Statistically, parents who wait until this age to have kids are shown to be better, more committed parents than their teenaged or young 20-ish counterparts. Parenting is a really rough, expensive, all-consuming job, and one should really try to avoid entering into this state before one is himself fully grown up. Duh.

So, you Readers with younger children...... Just keep that verse in mind. I was walking around for years with it as a mantra ! Proverbs ----“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”

Learn the verse in its entirety, though, and don't take any shortcuts. Just because some folks call it the “Train Verse”, no fair turning the verse into some “Little Engine That Could” chanting. You remember that old children's book? “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.” That is WAY too easy to switch into defeatist things like:

I thought I could, I thought I could.”

I thought HE could. I thought he could.

He never will. He never will.

I'll kill him now. I'll kill them BOTH.

Kindergarten, Kindergarten – which, once passed, you realize you have to set your goals further out, and start chanting,

Senior Prom, by Senior Prom” (If they don't learn this by the Senior Prom, I'll kill them both....)

Last note: A child with a confirmed “GENIUS IQ” does NOT make the train ride any easier, or shorter. Trust me. Just more frustrating, if anything.


( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
Jun. 30th, 2012 11:48 pm (UTC)
I've never seen that verse before. I do like it though. I do think the phrase , 'when he is old', is relative.
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )


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