His disciples asked Him what this parable meant. Luke 8:9
For a while now I’ve been telling my kids stories from my childhood. They love hearing about the silly things I did, mistakes I made, and what things were like back then. But the real reason I tell my kids stories about my childhood is I want to teach them to be grateful for the wonderful life we have, and to put things in perspective for them. Telling them that I lost TV privileges for talking disrespectfully to my parents reinforces why I take away their screen time when they are disrespectful to me or my husband. Hearing that my mother threatened me with “going to bed without dinner” when I complained about food makes them realize that I’m not some terrible ogre when I threaten to do the same. It’s amazing how hearing how their sweet and kind “Narnie” disciplined me makes them more readily accept my rules, and the repercussions when they break them.
Lately I’ve been ramping up the boys’ responsibilities around the house. At eight and ten years of age, they’re more than capable of doing more, and should be contributing to the household. I’ve been going on and on about the chores I was required to do as a kid, listing the things I was doing at their ages: vacuuming, dusting, folding laundry, scrubbing toilets, you name it. I was one of seven kids. We all had to pitch in. It’s just the way it was, and we did it without complaint (for the most part).
Today was the day I decided it was time to clean and vacuum our mini-van (something I haven’t really done in eight years). Today was also the day I decided that all three kids should help me do it (something they’ve never done in their four, eight and ten years). As we were heading down the basement stairs with disinfectant wipes, vacuum hose and accessories, and their pouty attitudes, I was again going on and on about how at their age I was cleaning my mother’s car, inside and out, all by myself. With tears in his eyes, Zack said, “Why do you always tell us how mean Narnie was. She seems so nice.” It was then that I realized that although I use stories to teach my kids things, I haven’t been telling them the whole story.
Jesus often spoke in parables. He knew that people connected most to the things that were familiar to them. It also was a way to teach them things at their level, without talking down to them. But there were times when even His stories confused people, like in the scripture passage above. As a farmer scattered seeds, some fell on a path, some on rocks, some amongst thorns, and some on good soil, each with different results. Although Jesus thought He was talking in simple terms, the disciples still didn’t understand. They had to ask what each scenario meant. So Jesus went on to explain the significance of the path, rocks, thorns and good soil.
Likewise, I have to go the extra step with my stories so that the meaning is clear, with no room for misunderstanding or confusion. Otherwise, my kids are going to miss the point every time.
As Zack pointed out through his tears in defense of his grandmother, I didn’t clarify why my mother had us all pitch in to help around the house. I never explained that it wasn’t to torture us, or to only help her chip away at the pile of dishes and mountain of laundry that she was always getting buried under. It was to teach us that family doesn’t just play together, family also works together. I didn’t explain that I was grateful to my mother for teaching me that life has responsibilities and tasks that need to get done. No one gets a free ride. We are all supposed to contribute, to help out, to lighten each other’s load. If we don’t learn this as children, we grow up to be lazy and spoiled adults who just take: not very attractive at all, and certainly not what I want for my kids.
There are so many lessons I have learned from my mother, and from Jesus’ example, that I want to pass on to my children. But I have now learned that if I’m going to use story as a means to teach my kids, I can’t just tell them half the story. I need to go the extra step and teach them by telling the whole story.