I picked up the boys from Kindergarten. Judah put his dirty little hand in mine, gave me a big smile, and cussed right in my face.
Seriously, he did.
You have to know, though, that we had been waiting for it. In the German language and culture, there are certain words that are just used so frequently and trivially that it shocked my Americanized self when we first moved back to Germany. This particular cuss word Judah chose to use is heard everywhere…teachers say it, kids say it, people at church say it. And because of its almost inevitable omnipresence, John and I started wondering when (not if) the kids would pick it up.
So there it was! Judah said it to my face. With a smile and an immediately following, “What does that mean?”
Calmly, I explained to him that it’s a word used when we don’t like things or are upset about something. And I explained that people say it a lot, but that we, as a family, don’t say it.
And you know what happened next?
Both boys accepted my answer, didn’t ask anything else about it, and I haven’t heard the word cross their lips since.
This experience confirmed something that has roamed around in my head for quite some time now. Charlotte Mason, a 19th century British educator, said this in one of her many books on education and children,
“The child breathes the atmosphere emanating from his parents.”
Our children don’t just learn behaviors from us. They don’t just follow our rules. They’re breathing in the very essence of who we are and what we value, day after day. Judah and Elias have breathed in our value as a family to speak words that build up, not words that destroy. And I was so thankful to see that, in this one story, it overpowered what they have breathed in outside of our home.
The child breathes the atmosphere emanating from his parents. For our family, that means our boys breathe in our unconditional love; they breathe in our willingness to apologize; they breathe in our excitement to move to Africa; they breathe in the value of love over revenge.
But you know what this also means, don’t you?!
They breathe in my impatient spirit when I put them to bed in a rush; they breathe in my misplaced priorities when I don’t take the time to listen; they breathe in my selfishness when I am stressed; they breathe in my anger when I raise my voice.
Oh, the high and humbling calling of parenthood. May we all fill our hearts and minds with air that is worthy of being breathed in by the precious souls entrusted into our care.