“Oh, it is such a shame they won’t remember it!” my friend said.
My husband and I had just invested a lot of money (money that might have been better used to fix up our house or to replace our 15-year-old van) to take our family of six to Europe for ten days next summer. We will be returning— for the first time as a family—to Skopje, Macedonia, where we lived from 2008-2011, before spending a day in Amsterdam.
“Maybe,” I said, admittedly a little bothered by her comment but aware that I was having similar thoughts.
My friend reminded me that my eleven-year-old son might not be old enough to get out of it everything we might hope. And I already know that the two-year-old won’t remember one bit of the trip for longer than a month. So why are we doing this?
When we lived overseas our family was changed. Much of our time in the former communist bloc was hard, but it changed our family culture in ways I never expected. The people we loved and the places we saw shaped each of us in ways we never even knew to hope for.
But the kids don’t remember it anymore. Our third child was born there and proudly calls herself a Macedonian but has very little to show for it other than her birth abroad report and her now-expired passport. And the two older children don’t remember when we spent a magical Christmas in London with their grandparents, or when we danced in a Roma Gypsy wedding. They don’t remember visiting Greek ruins that we read about now in myths or the places where Paul was shipwrecked and imprisoned that we read about in the scriptures.
But those weren’t wasted times.
When are we going to be old enough, mature enough, educated enough to truly appreciate anything?
If I had waited until I was fully ready to marry and have children, I would not have these good gifts in my life. If I had waited to be ready to read the Great Books, I wouldn’t be trying to give myself a classical education now. If I was waiting to have enough knowledge of the Bible to see every truth in it, I wouldn’t be able to read it now. I may never be “ready” for the things that I need.
The foods we serve, the activities we prioritize, and the books we read as a family communicate to our children what we value and what we want them to love when they are grown.
On a special day, we give our children prime rib and vegetables and tell them to eat it hoping that, if they do, they will eventually see how much better it is than frozen chicken nuggets.
We take our child into nature to try to spot a red-tailed hawk or the first bloom of spring even though they may not grasp the full extent of the magnificence of what they’re seeing because we want them to love them. We memorize Robert Frost poems and read The Hobbit together because they are good and good for them, knowing they will not understand every word. We stop everything every week for the Lord’s Day and share worship through music and teachings from the scripture because it is more important for our family than anything else, even though they may not follow everything they hear.
If we wait until our children are “ready” for good foods, great stories, life-changing events, and the Truth, we may never have the opportunity to share them. Our children may never be ready how we want them to be. My children may not remember anything from this trip but it will help shape them, nonetheless.
Give your children good things, the best things you can, even when they can’t appreciate them fully, in hopes that, when they are grown, they will have a hunger for them.