Menu

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

A Quiet Time

The little boy squealed in delight. Mirroring his Daddy and Mummy, he mouthed the words of a song so familar to him, all complete with corresponding hand actions. The 2-year-old then lifted his hands and launched a purposeful punch into the air. "Yeah!" he cried.

It was Sunday evening. The day was almost done, and little Z was in his cosy room, having an enjoyable time singing songs. Daddy and Mummy had initiated this special time because they wanted to create a new family ritual. The singing was the penultimate activity before bed. It was just before the nightly prayer time that they had always been spending with him as far back as they could remember. But that night was only the third such song session, and the first with the animated hand gestures. And judging from Z's exuberant response, Daddy and Mummy knew that they were indeed doing the right thing, that they were creating a special time to teach their son how to honour the most important person in their lives - their God.

For the past few months we have been trying to make sense of the "new" person our son seemed to have become. He seemed to be more opinionated, more sensitive, and more short-fused. Of course most people generally attribute his behaviour to that of a toddler entering the "terrible-twos" phase, during which everything is prefaced with a "No!" This could be anything as physical as eating his food to something more behavioural like keeping his toys. One qualification to this, as highlighted by our good friends Edwin and Christine some time back, was that no matter how much Z objected to something we wanted him to do, that he still ultimately obeyed us. And for that we are thankful. What remained difficult, however, was to deal with the temper tantrums that he manifested during those moments of protests.

A couple of weeks back, we were reminded during church service that "[God] will rejoice over [us] with gladness; [that] He will quiet [us] by His love". This particular passage of the Bible was poignant for us as the first part described our older son very well. It was easy to create a mental illustration of God dancing and rejoicing over Z - especially given our child's exuberence and intense personality. What was more difficult was understanding how God could quiet him with His love. I can think of many words to describe my son, but the word "quiet" just seems in complete dissonance with all I know him to be.
This week I finally understood how the love of God could quiet my son.

It was during our regular Sunday church service. Just before our Senior Pastor George Butron shared his teaching, he expressed his joy that there are now more babies and children in the church. He then stressed the important role that parents play in cultivating an environment for our children to experience God. Opening a page from his past, Pastor George shared how he had carried his son in his arms, even as he sang songs of love to God. This, he said, had helped his son to learn from him how to cultivate a heart attuned to God.

I realised that songs can be lyrical expressions of love, and by teaching our son to sing songs of love to God, that we can cultivate an environment to allow God to quiet his heart.

Z has always been immensely fond of music. From as far back as we can remember, our son has always responded positively to all kinds of music - from children's songs such as "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" to the Chinese songs played by the radio station of my adolescence, Yes 93.3 FM. We have therefore capitalised on his love for music by introducing him to DVDs which present Christian songs in a manner that children can appreciate. But we also did not want him to watch too much TV, and as such limited his viewing to at most an hour each time. As a result of this decision, Z now loves watching DVDs such as the Baby Faith series, the Praise Baby series, and also the children's versions of the 赞美之泉 (Streams of Praise) collections. We feel that watching such DVDs is definitely more wholesome than some of the contemporary cartoons or children's programmes. Moreover, as parents, we are able to control what our sons view, and we feel that is really important to us.
Imagine our surprise one day when we were enjoying a lovely time at a park, and we had then decided to take photos of our sons. Z noticed the presence of the camera, and started to pose for us. We realised these were the same actions that he had watched on his 赞美之泉 DVD! That incident really helped us to realise how much influence his TV watching habits had on him. I realised then that I could use music and hand actions as a medium of instruction for him in his day-to-day learning.

This Sunday's church service reminded me about the importance of imparting strong values to our children. I am convinced that fathers play a critical role in moulding the future of our children. And that night, I was determined to start a new family ritual for Z.

We began with a time of reading Bible stories to our son. Given our 2-year-old's tendancy to be distracted, I had a brainwave, and started illustrating the stories with exaggerated hand actions. I know our son responds well to such movement, and he indeed listened to every word I said, without trying to turn the page, which was his normal practice. After the reading, Sue and I started a lovely time of singing songs to God, adding hand illustrations at every opportunity. It was truly beautiful to witness first hand how Z chose to follow our actions, and to clap at the end of every song. We then ended our evening with a prayer, before tucking him to bed with our usual nightly "I love you" greeting.

My wife described the evening so beautifully in her Facebook status update:

Precious family praise and worship time before bed, led by Daddy. It is a joy to hear our son say, "God is so good!" and "Alleluia!" while clapping joyously and spontaneously to the Lord. Our little boy truly responds to worship, and we pray he will be like David, dancing with abandon in His presence. 

In the Bible, King David was known to be a "man after God's Heart", a man who chose to honour God without any inhibitions during those intimate moments with Him.

It is the heart of a parent that his or her children grow up to believe in his or her values, and to subscribe to the same convictions that he or she firmly treasures. I love God. And it is my deepest desire that my sons grow up to love Him just as I do, or even more than me. 

I believe that God quiets the hearts of our children, and He has appointed us as parents to be His instruments in the process.