English: A sleeping male baby with his arm ext...

My world revolves around children, and babies. I teach several classes at church, I homeschool my daughters and I usually have several neighborhood children around too.  I schedule, teach and play all day, every day.  And it’s been like this for a long time: my work teaching officially began when I was in the 9th grade and my Principal agreed to let me go teach one of the 3rd grade classes French every Friday.  After that, I was hooked, and began looking for children—I volunteered with JA do that I could teach.  Then Big Sisters and Project Affirm–lots of different places.  And now, now, I have my own daughters, precious and beautiful gems that make my world sparkle with girlish laughter and a gazillion questions every day. Through all the work with children, through all the hundreds of hours spent with them, I have learned one thing: Children are precious. And innocent.


One of my favorite stories of me as a child took place when I was about five.  Apparently, we were out and about when we stopped at a red light.  Looking out the window , I saw a lot with a whole bunch of cars. I said, “I’m glad we’re not going there, cause we’d never find a place to park!”  The place was a car dealership.  I chuckle now whenever I think of that story, because it reminds me that, even of I can no longer remember it, I was once just as innocent and young as my own daughters.  Today, as I watched my children play, I remembered one Sunday night in church when my pastor had the entire congregation, full of adults, sing together “Jesus Loves Me.”  Tears blurred my vision as I sang it and also today, as I recalled doing so, because it reminded me that, no matter how old I am, I am still a child too.



I forget that a lot.



I thought again of my daughters and the children at church I teach. I have a rule that no child, aged five or twelve, enters my classroom without a hug.  I tell my girls I love them half a dozen times a day.  I praise their accomplishments and encourage them when they fail.   A day without hearing them laugh is my worst nightmare.  In other words, I treat them tenderly.  I never forget that their emotional welfare is at least as important as their physical safety.  I try hard to instill confidence and inner strength.  I don’t allow them on scales because I don’t want them to even subconsciously equate worth with weight.  I remember their positive traits and successes and treat their misbehaviors as opportunities to learn.  In other words, I love them.



I thought of all this, then thought about how I treat myself.  Once every other week, I allow myself a hot bubble bath in the garden tub.  I indulge my love of caffeinated drinks, particularly Dr. Pepper.  I teach. I write for the same reason I breathe: I’d like to keep living. I will listen to music.   But these are the only luxuries I allow myself. I spend money on the girls, but haven’t bought myself a new outfit in quite awhile.  I don’t watch TV, not because I’m so much afraid it will burn my brain cells, but because I am not allowed to relax.  I used to tell myself that I couldn’t let anyone rub my back because it  would hurt. Now, I can confess to banning that because I’m afraid it will make me relax.  In 31 years, I have never had a sip of any alcoholic beverage–why? Because I am afraid of losing control.  I work like it’s going out of style — I stay up late and plan curriculum, I give until it hurts.  When someone compliments me, I verbally say “thank you” because a teacher told me once that to say anything else devalued the other person’s opinions– but, in my head, I shake my head, dismissing the compliment as nothing more than flattery.  I hate mirrors.  My faults haunt me, hold me back, because I believe they describe me more accurately than do my strengths.   Sure, I’m fairly decent with children– but then again, so are most people.  Sure, I can write, but so could anyone who tried.  Sure, I’m fairly smart, but only because I see learning as a wonderful thing. Anyone could read the same stuff I do.  In other words, you see,  I’m not very kind to myself most days.



Most grown-ups aren’t.



And I think that’s sad. Because, in truth, we are all children.   Mark Twain once said: “A king’s loss of a crown is the same as a child’s loss of a doll.”



A grown-up’s attempt to start a business is the same as the child’s attempt to sell sour lemonade on a hot summer day. Even if they fail, both should be commended for the effort.  A grown-up’s angry, painful words are the equivalent of a child who deliberately hurts another’s feelings by calling her a name: both should be reprimanded–but wisely and gently.  An adult’s written song is the same as a child’s art project–both should garner accolades, even if they don’t go on to be award-winning pieces of art.  A grown-up’s hard day is the same as a child’s hard day — perception is the only thing that makes it different.



Joel Osteen came to Nashville about a year ago. My mother likes him a lot so my sister and I got us all tickets to surprise her.  I like him, but I’m not one hundred percent behind a lot of his overly optimistic messages.  But, toward the end of his sermon, he told a story about how, when he has done something wonderful or brilliant, he imagines a bandstand in heaven that’s full.  Moses is there, Joseph, Abraham, Mary and Issac–and his father.  Everyone is cheering him on. The story made me want to weep.  Grown-ups need cheering on.   Grown-ups deserve cheering on.   Jesus didn’t die just for the little children–He died for the big ones too.



The trouble is, the older I get, the more aware of my faults I become.  The more ashamed I feel.  The more lonely.  And loneliness can convince you you’re unworthy.  But, once upon a time, a little blonde haired, blue-eyes girl thought a car dealership was a parking lot.  Another time, she rode barefoot on a racing horse and wound up upside down, stuck in the stirrup.  One time, she wrote a Valentine’s note to her mom and published it in the school newspaper. One time, a little blonde haired, scared little girl held her hand up in the dark, prayed and really believed God lowered His own hand down from heaven just to hold hers.  Once, on Oct 1, 1980 in Memphis, a baby girl was born that looked a lot like my oldest daughter and that was as pure and sweet and tender and innocent as the children with whom I work now are.  She said and did funny things. She was worthy.  And, no matter how easy it is to believe otherwise, she still is.