When Ezra, our African-born son, first came to America, he was 5-years old. In his first five years, he had developed an understanding of the small square of Congo where he lived, showered, ate and played. Though his world was limited, he was old enough to know what was safe and whom to trust. Then he was flown across the world to a new place with a different language, people, food and customs. He had to relearn so much about this new world.
When we would read books to him—books about farms and dinosaurs and pigeons and everything in between—he would point to the animals in the pictures and ask, “Me touch-ee him? He eat-ee me?” Never mind the plot, characters and dialogue. Forget about the story’s underlying morals or comparison to modern life. He wanted to get to the crux of what was displayed on those pages—does that pose a danger to me? Once I had explained that dinosaurs were extinct or that cows were docile creatures which give us ice cream, he was ready for the next page.
Having always lived here, my understanding was so different than his. For instance, I took for granted that squirrels posed no threat to my safety, but he needed to be informed and then reassured about those meek, little acorn-gatherers.
I came to realize that his first year in America was about a lot of things: attachment to his new family, strengthening his body, consistency in his schedule. But the main thing we did was reassure him. You are safe. You are loved. You are not alone. You can trust us.
To watch him now, after more than a thousand days home with us, I see an 8-year old boy who jumps in the deep end and rides his bike downhill and throws his body on the ground to stop a soccer ball when he’s playing in the goal. He still asks a lot about the world around him, but he doesn’t hold as much fear for the unknown. His curiosity can be exhausting, so I have to remind myself that this is how he learns and with knowledge comes a decrease in his worrying.
I love the way the Books of Psalms and Proverbs regard knowledge. It’s not about whitewashing the truth or ignoring questions. Knowledge is a powerful tool. “Lips that speak knowledge are a rare jewel.” (Proverbs 20:15) Or take Psalm 119:65-68 – “Lord, I am overflowing with your blessings, just as you promised. Now teach me good judgment as well as knowledge. For your laws are my guide. I used to wander off until you punished me; now I closely follow all you say. You are good and do only good; make me follow your lead.”
That’s such a big part of parenting: Imparting knowledge that leads to wisdom that guides us to righteous living.