“Don’t Touch Your Brother!” … and Other Things Fathers Say

“It is a wise father who knows his own child” – William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice

Throughout the Bible we see instances and indications that it is (often) easier to understand a situation once we are removed from it. That is, once our personal defenses are removed from the scenario, we come up with reasonable judgment … only to find out that we have convicted ourselves.

Consider, for example, the prophet Nathan and King David. When Nathan had to convict David of sin over his affair with Bathsheba, and his treatment of Uriah, he used an allegory. The story let David see clearly the horrid evil he had committed. (Consider 2 Sam 12:1-12.)

Then there’s the Lord’s denunciation of the Pharisees in the Parable of the Wicked Husbandmen (Matt 21:33-46). He paints a picture of how God views the religious leaders without naming them by name … until they themselves have come on board with the clear judgment of wrong. Then He lowers the boom, showing them that they are a party to the wickedness of the husbandmen, and that His Father (the vineyard owner) will deal with them, just as they suggest.

The point is also obvious through the Golden Rule. The simplest way to ensure clear judgment in a situation is to imagine yourself the other party in any situation. Take yourself out of the equation, even make yourself the other party, and you come up with a better understanding of right and wrong.

Along those lines I’ve noticed through my life that I find it far simpler to understand the nature of a father-son relationship, and what it means in regards to Christianity, when I’m speaking to my own children. Time and again I hear a subtle “ahem” descend from heavenward as I correct my sons for various issues; the Lord reminding me gently that “by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned” (… and those were some rather interesting words you just spoke … they sound suspiciously like something I might have said). Yes, many times I understand life, the Christian life, more cleanly based on what I say to my own kids.

“Could you just do what I asked?” …

Time and again. “I’ve asked you to do something simple, something you know how to do [like put your shoes on], and you still haven’t done it … could you just do what I asked?”

My kids often fail to understand the big picture. They don’t see all the moving parts that need to come together to get the whole thing to go. And I don’t ask them to. All I ask is that they do their part – and I will tell them exactly what their part is. (Yes, when they are older they’ll need to fill in the blanks for what they should and shouldn’t do in various situations, but for now they are young enough that they can rely on me to give them clear, explicit instructions about what they should do next … like put on their shoes.)

Yes Lord, I hear You. Perhaps I don’t have a clear understanding of the whole picture, of all the moving parts, of everything that needs to come together to make this whole thing go. But it would be enough, I suppose, if I could just do the simple thing.

“I can’t fix it if you won’t give it to me” …

I have boys. I can’t speak for how it goes with little girls, but little boys break things – a lot. When they break things they will often give a token effort to fix it, and then bring it to me when they fail. That’s fine, it’s part of being Daddy. What I find so interesting is when they want me to fix something, but refuse to put it in my hands.

“I just can’t fix it while you’re holding onto it so tight. You have to give it to me. I’m going to do something that you would not have thought of. I’m going to fix it in a way you hadn’t planned, but that’s the only way to fix it right. You’re just going to have to trust that Daddy knows what he’s doing.”

Yes God, I hear You …

“You can’t pitch a fit every time you don’t get exactly what you want” …

This is for my oldest. He has a way of falling to pieces when things don’t go exactly the way he wants. Worse yet, he can get 10 things in a row that are exactly what he wants, wonderful things, but when the eleventh is a “not now” he comes unglued.

“You can’t pitch a fit every time you don’t get exactly what you want. Haven’t you gotten tons of good things (even quite recently)? You can’t come unhinged when this one little thing comes back ‘no’ or even ‘not yet’.”

Ahem …

“Your brother is more important than your toys” …

Fighting over toys. Oh my do they fight over toys. In a house full of toys they fight over one little thing, and a different thing every time. Basically whatever one brother has is what the others want.

Now, I don’t mean to make to fine a point here over jealousy and covetousness. I’m actually more concerned with the violence that ensues. Fighting – causing each other physical harm – over a toy in a house full of toys.

“I don’t care what happened. I don’t care that he’s had it longer. I don’t even care if he took it from you – you can’t hit your brother over a toy! Your brothers are more important than toys.” (The implication here is obvious – the brother is more important to me than the toys, but perhaps not his siblings. Sigh.)

“Let me worry about your brother, you do what I’ve asked” …

I will often dispatch the kids downstairs to the playroom to clean up. They are not all the same age and obviously have different levels of ability, with the oldest being by far the most capable. The middle child knows how to clean though – but he also has the most strident commitment to getting out of cleaning.

Time and again I hear the eldest calling up “he’s not helping me, he’s not cleaning, he’s not doing what you told him to.” I’m not exactly a fan of tattling, but I don’t really mind so much when the oldest informs me that his brothers, who I have told to help him, are not helping him. What I do mind is when he stops doing what I’ve told him to do in order to rat out his brother.

“OK, I hear you, he’s not helping, he’s not doing what I asked him to do, and I will deal with him (he’s my son). You do what I asked. Even while you’re waiting for me to deal with him, even while you’re waiting for him to help, and even if he never gets there – you do what I asked.”

(When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?”Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” – John 21:21-22)

“Don’t touch your brother” …

There’s a lot of touching between my kids. I’m sure all the parents of multiple children can relate. Some of this is to be expected, even encouraged. It’s OK for the boys to wrestle and play. It’s the touching when they should be doing something else (like putting on their shoes!) that really grates on me. There’s this invisible magnetic force that draws them toward each other, to touch, and poke, and push, and punch each other.

“Can you just not touch your brother for five minutes?”

This one really speaks to my political disposition (as does the previous one). Can you just stop touching your brother? Can you just stop digging into his life? He’s just trying to go along his way and live his life and you keep messing with him. Can you stop? Please?

“If you had just done what I asked, when I asked, you’d already be done” …

When they were younger, my kids used to fuss about taking a bath. I’m not sure if they were really upset about taking the bath, or upset about the implication that the bath would be followed by bedtime. (Little do they know that one day they’ll hope for bedtime.) Sometimes before the bath, and sometimes during, they would just find themselves unable to move forward. This would be followed by frustration that the bath was still going on, and was still a considerable way from being finished.

And so, I stand frustratedly putting face in palm … “if you had just done what I asked, when I asked, you would have been done already.”

“Don’t cry at me when I’m doing exactly what you asked me to do” …

“You asked me to fix it, you asked me for a snack, or a drink – and I’m making it happen in the most expeditious fashion possible – and you see me doing it … why are you still fussing at me?”

Maybe that one’s just me.

“Don’t touch that” …

This one just kills me. “Don’t touch that” is almost always followed by “why not?” I don’t mind the question in response. I don’t mind being asked by my child why he shouldn’t touch something. But the question has to come  in the proper time order. FIRST stop what you are doing, and avoid touching the thing I told you not to touch, THEN ask me why you shouldn’t touch it.

It cannot happen in the reverse order. It cannot happen in a “tell me why, and be convincing, or I’m going to do it.” Many-a-child has touched the hot stove before the explanation was good enough. (Or, in my house, touched his brother’s Legos or Transformers, only to receive a severe beat-down from a wronged sibling.)

It’s just so much easier to see it from this side. Don’t touch that, it will end up hurting you. I get it … well, I get it now.

Tell us your story …

I’m sure any parents reading this have similar stories to tell. Please, pass them on …

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2 Responses to “Don’t Touch Your Brother!” … and Other Things Fathers Say

  1. Pingback: More Wisdom from My Kids on How We Relate to Each Other through Public Policy | Freedom at Bethsaida

  2. bevylynn says:

    So we aren’t up to a lot of these yet, but I am sure that they are coming. My guy throws things when he’s mad or hits or doesn’t get his way. I am sure that I have thrown a hissy fit or too to God when I haven’t gotten my way as well. (Its kind of comforting that your kids do similar things even older, because I think of you guys as really good parents to look up too, so its nice to know it may not be me.) I really liked your statement about not being able to fix something if we won’t give it up. My guy clutches his empty sippy cup with all his strength and flails it around wanting more, but he won’t let go to let me fill it for him. I wonder what things I am not letting go.

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