Baby’s and Toddlers

I am not the person who is over the moon for every baby nor the one who does all the funny faces to get a little laugh. I’m more the one who keeps a little distance to see what the child would want. I do like to hold those little ones and to make them comfortable. Nothing more beautiful to me than a baby who falls asleep in my arms.

When they are between nine and twenty-four months I like them the most. They become mobile and go out to discover. I can watch such a child for hours. Everything is being touched, picked up, looked at, tasted and shaken. Everything is being tested; what happens when I throw it? Can I tear it? What sound does it make when I hit the table with it, or the floor, or my brother? How does sand feel, and dirt, gravel, plants? What happens when I squeeze it? Some children hear with everything they do: “no”, “don’t”, “stop”, “dirty”, “dangerous”, “stay away”.

When my eldest started to crawl and stand on her feet, I was forbidding everything all the time. I had set my mind on a properly raised child, a child who would listen and would behave well. A neat and orderly child, worth showing off. But all this forbidding made both of us unhappy. I got cranky and so did my child. This wasn’t going to work. You can’t expect an 18 months old toddler to behave like a model citizen. They are more or less the same level as a cat; when you are around and pay attention, your rules are to be obeyed. When you are not there, the rules are not there either.

I then took the following drastic step; I will adjust to my child instead of my child having to adjust to my picture of perfect. Of course there are certain things that are really not allowed. Some things are harmful or dangerous and some things are very valuable to me, so I want to keep them in one piece. Those are the things she wasn’t allowed. Most things in these categories I put away, so she couldn’t reach them, but some things, like the TV and VCR I left in place. She wasn’t allowed to touch them, but I believed she could learn that. And if she sometimes did touch them, it wasn’t a disaster. This way I could learn her she wasn’t allow to do certain things without having to say no the entire day and without creating dangerous situations. And this way she could discover and experience without too big a risks and develop without too big a limitations. She happy, me happy.

New born Christians, just like little baby’s, have the need for safety, security and esteem, but at the same time they jump to the discovery phase. Some read the entire bible in a couple of months and are filled with questions. Others take your faith and look at it, smell it, shake it, squeeze it and bang on it to see what noise it makes. Often we think our faith is to valuable to let others rattle it. Before you know it something gets broken. So we cry; “no”, “don’t”, “not allowed”, “stay away”, “naughty”.

If this is the way we relate to new Christians, what will be their image of our faith? Is it a safe place? Is it inviting for discovery and growth? What image do they get of the God we believe in? Is that a God with whom you feel safe, who loves you, who is merciful? Or do we raise them to be cautious people who obey the rules because they are afraid of punishment? To be people who don’t dare to ask questions or go out to discover because they are afraid God might become angry?

There are harmful things we should warn them for, even forbid them. According to the Ten Commandments they are killing, lying, stealing and jealousy. And there are a few things you should do: love, be faithful and have respect.

All of this begins with loving God and giving Him first place in your life. So most important is a safe bonding. This is our beginner-Christians getting to know God as Father, as someone they can trust and whom they can build their lives on. A God with so many facets you won’t ever be bored. There always will be something new to discover.

It is great to go on a journey of discovery together with these people. Through their eyes you will see the world and your faith in a fresh way again. You can enjoy a toddler playing with sand and water because they totally immerse in the discovery of what sand and water do together. It totally isn’t relevant what the chemical and physical features of H2O and silicon are, and that you can do so much more useful things with them than just making mud. But when you want to start that subject, you will only get an indistinct look.

It is much more fun to get your own hands in the water and the sand and to feel again how it used to be and making little towers of dripping sand. And may be you will see the toddler do something you would not have thought of. That is totally great.

Lets do the same with our new believers. Let’s get back to the beginning with them and discover together who God is for them, what the meaning is of the life and death and resurrection of Jesus for them and how the Holy Spirit works in their life. And maybe we discover something we didn’t know yet. Or we get a question we don’t know the answer to. That isn’t scary, that is a win. Your faith isn’t being undermined but it will get stronger and more diverse from it.

If you know yourself who God is for you, what the meaning is of the life and death and resurrection of Jesus for yourself and how the Holy Spirit works in your life, that is.

If you believe in God and you accept as true He exists, that the world is created in six days, that Jesus has died for your sins and the rest of the creed, you know everything about H2O and silicon, but what do you know about mud and sand towers?

If you want to raise some toddlers, you better get (re) acquainted.

The toddler in the picture is my eldest daughter when she was 20 months old. It had been raining a lot that summer and the campingground was full of ponds. She just adored those ponds. Every time we looked the other way she was literally sitting in a pond. After changing her tree times in dry clothes, we went to the nearby city to buy little rubber boots. Out of a plastic garbage bag I made an overall and taped it to the little boots. This way she could play in the ponds without getting all wet and cold.