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  • Betsy James

Hello, Mr. Bear


If you happen to have young kids at home - let's say toddler through elementary school - then you are in a sweet spot for creating family traditions. During those early, formative years our kids are learning what is "normal" by watching us. This is a bit scary but also REALLY amazing! This means that we have several years at the beginning of our family life to establish rhythms and routines that our kids will view as a normal part of life. Is it normal to have a prayer for the day at the breakfast table? It is in our house. Is it normal to pile into someone's bedroom at 8:30pm for family devotions? It is here. Is it normal to say hello to a large, wooden bear every time we drive past him? Again...it's normal if you're in our family.

To demonstrate just how EASY it is to begin a new routine with young kids, allow me to explain the above picture. A few months ago, some folks that live one street over from our neighborhood had to cut down a large, presumably unhealthy tree. Instead of just chopping it down and leaving a stump, they hired someone to carve that stump into a large bear who is holding an American flag. Pretty cool. After driving past this bear several times I started thinking, "I wonder if I start saying hello to this bear every time we pass if the kids would start doing it too and maybe they would think that is fun?" So I did it. The next time we passed their property I waved and said "Hello, Mr. Bear" and the kids LOVED it! Now every time we ride in the car there is a conversation about whether or not we will be seeing Mr. Bear or whether or not we have already passed him or how early is too early to say "hello".

And that's how simple it can be. Maybe you have recently printed off a set of scripture cards but you haven't figured out how to incorporate them into your day. Maybe you can make it a fun tradition by practicing those verses during dessert. It seems pretty fitting to me to have something sweet in your mouth when you are eating God's sweet words. (And I bet the kids would ask for more and more scripture memory!)

The fun thing about these young ages is that the family norms bring with them a sense of identity and belonging. Because the kids know our traditions and participate in our daily (sometimes quirky) routines, they have a stronger sense of belonging. They know our family ways and they are a part of them. And they are delighted to explain our traditions to their friends and welcome them into the fun. We had a little boy eating dinner with us the other night and I told Ben maybe we should do a regular prayer instead of our song since our friend might feel left out, but that little boy quickly said, "I know your song, I can sing it!" He was so proud that he knew the song/prayer and could participate. And what this said to me is that he has been here enough to know the song - he is part of us.

As much as I LOVE having James family traditions, I am even more motivated to pass along the traditions of our larger family - the body of Christ. There are words and disciplines and traditions that have been celebrated by Christ followers for thousands of years and I am thrilled that as a parent, I have the opportunity to present these life-giving traditions as the norm for my children. Lord willing, they won't have to struggle to adjust their course later in life with tithing and worship and fellowship and scripture and prayer because these practices will be deeply ingrained in their daily routines.

Our kids are eager to be a part of our family traditions. Let's give them a few that will serve them well throughout their lifetime. It can be as easy as waving to a large, wooden bear.

Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.

1 Cor. 11:1


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