Practicing with Children

At the intersection of curiosity and disobedience

Contributed by Autumn and Andrew GaleDisplaying photo.JPG

Someone once told us, as parents, to not discipline curiosity, but to discipline disobedience. And this has certainly been our mantra. However, we currently have a 2.5 year old at home. Enough said, right? The line of curiosity and disobedience is sometimes fuzzy, and let’s be honest, utterly exhausting.

Everything we currently own, whether it’s our furniture, clothing, car or the actual walls of our home, is evidence of our daughter’s curiosity and disobedience. “Eleanor these crayons are for drawing on the paper…” and you know how the rest of the story goes. I recall a beautiful crayon mural I decorated on a bathroom door in my childhood home. It really did need an artist’s touch! I can now relate with my parent’s defeat as we too endure/admire our daughter’s works of art throughout our lives.

Our toddler is learning and so are we as first time parents. We had our first snow this week and it was beautiful and perfect – a true winter wonderland. My daughter desperately wanted to discover it from the other side of the window. We spent thirty minutes bundling up and finally headed outside. Within seconds (literally, I think it was all of two seconds) of walking out the door, she had a handful of snow in her mouth. For some parents, especially more experienced parents of two, three or eight children, this is no big deal. As a parent who recently experienced sleepless nights because of our daughter’s sickness, all I could think of was, “Stop! Don’t eat the snow and get sick again!” Though the thought was irrational (what’s some snow going to do?) I couldn’t help but panic as she gleefully shoveled handfuls in her mouth. She was using ALL of her senses to fully experience the snow. This is curiosity. Besides, we all know what snow tastes like, right?

My daughter loves exploring the world. God’s creation seems to be more expansive for her. There is a limitlessness to her findings and curiosity. Even as I write this my daughter is scooting crayons on the floor with other crayons and marking up the floor (sigh..a wet paper towel should do the trick). Who knew crayon hockey could be so enjoyable? On the one hand, we welcome her imagination’s growth and we don’t want to do anything that might stifle her with my parental worry. We want her to explore, to create, to ponder. We want her to build a repertoire of kinesthetic learning that widens her view of the world. We want her to ask questions and discover.

Then on the other hand, there is a point to which this must be tempered. Sometimes curiosity leads to disobedience (mostly after a fascinating discovery like red crayons do look beautiful on the white wall – let’s see if all the colors look as stunning on the wall!) or it’s simply disobedience for disobedience sake. I think we like the approach of encouraging curiosity and disciplining disobedience because it calls us to step back, take a deep breath (count to three or fifty – whatever the moment requires) and take perspective. We are training our children in the ways of the Lord. They are marked by their Creator who has designed them to be sensory, creative and productive.

In Proverbs 8 we read wisdom describing herself. Proverbs 8:12 says, “I, wisdom, dwell together with prudence; I possess knowledge and discretion.” Later in verse 20 wisdom says, “I walk in the way of righteousness, along the paths of justice.” The use of righteousness and justice in the same thought points to a relational understanding of justice, not a punitive one. This is not a statement of condemnation, but that wisdom abounds in healthy relationships; relationships that are whole, that are for one-another.

The challenge for us comes in discerning between the two. We trust then on verses that speak of wisdom as relational. So, we are slowly learning to error on the side of exploration. We explore. We eat snow. We color (and then spend time cleaning up after). We hold loosely those material things that remain sacred knowing they come and go. And so do these times together. Someday we will miss crayon hockey.

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