At what age is it appropriate for children to hear Bible stories? Until recently, I would have said any age was appropriate. These days I’m wondering.
Over Memorial Day weekend Julie and I spent some time with all four of our grandchildren. I had no grandchildren until I married Julie three years ago. At that time there were two. Now there are four.
This handsome quartet includes Eliza, almost 7; Wyatt, 5, Beckett, almost 3, and Lincoln, nearly 2½. They can wear me out in short order but at the time this story begins I was relaxing on the couch, reading a newspaper.
Three of the kids were playing games with their parents and their grandmother. Beckett, the red-headed family clown, was looking at me and telling the other adults something. When I realized he was talking about me I understood that he had a marble-size wooden bead in his hand that he’d like to throw that bead at my head and knock me down… dead.
I quickly recognized the plot: the story of David the Shepherd Boy and the Philistine giant, Goliath. Apparently, Beckett had recently heard the story of David’s bravery and accuracy and to a kid less than 3’ tall I look an awful lot like Goliath. Bless his heart, Beckett didn’t realize that unlike Wylie Coyote Goliath didn’t miraculously return to life for the next cartoon.
His parents sternly admonished him for his morbid idea and a minute later he was sitting on my lap, showing me his wooden bead collection.
Later in the evening Beckett’s sister, Eliza, pretended to zap me with her Star Wars light saber. I feigned pain and asked Beckett to defend me against his Jedi sister. Before I could stop him, Beckett jumped off my lap and began beating on his sister. This, of course, caught the attention of his father who put Beckett in a time out for hitting his sister. It was my fault; I owe that boy an ice cream cone.
Sunday evening we drove to a nearby town for supper. Because their car seats are easier to transfer, the two older children – Eliza and Wyatt – rode with Julie and me. Beckett and his cousin, Lincoln, rode with their parents.
Eliza and Wyatt seemed fascinated with speed and encouraged me to drive faster. I refused, explaining speed limits and why one does not want to drive faster than the speed limit. I came to believe they would have enjoyed seeing me get a speeding ticket.
Wyatt asked what was the fastest I had ever driven. I didn’t want to lie to the lad but I also didn’t want to encourage bad behavior in a boy who in little more than 10 years will have his own driver’s license. I didn’t answer immediately but the question persisted so I admitted than when I was a very stupid teenager I had driven more than 130 miles an hour. When I realized that Wyatt thought that was cool I reiterated the foolishness of my behavior.
“Was it fun?” Wyatt persisted.
“No, it was scary,” I admitted.
The question remains: is it better to lie to a child or to be honest and admit your stupidity?
My heart was touched as we left the restaurant Sunday evening. Eliza and Wyatt had strapped themselves into their car seats in our vehicle. Little Lincoln headed for our car. When his mother called him to ride with her, Lincoln said, “I want to ride with Arvid.”
Car seats are an excellent idea but at the moment I would have enjoyed having all four of the grandchildren with us. They have all accepted me and it is my privilege to be their surrogate grandfather. I felt like the Grinch when I explained to Lincoln that he couldn’t ride with Grandma and Arvid.
Monday afternoon we waited until all four children had awakened from their naps before leaving for home. While I’m usually anxious to get on the road, the warm good-bye hugs from each of the grands made the wait worthwhile.
A few days later Julie asked if I had any thoughts on what to buy the grandchildren for Christmas. I told her I had no ideas, “But don’t buy Beckett a sling shot.”