Some people say I over protect my children-- that maybe I shelter them too much. It has been said that I have pulled the boundary lines in too tightly. I’m open. I’ll talk about it and here is what my question would be-- Is that really possible? On one hand, in certain circumstances, I guess it IS possible, but, on the other hand, here? Inside the city limits of Fort Worth? Really? Just living life exposes them to PLENTY- making trips to the grocery store (thinking of the eye catchers at the check out), having friends--churched and unchurched, chatting with our waiter or waitress, watching a baseball game on TV, seeing billboards and advertisements, visiting dear family or special friends who may simply do things differently.
There is a certain delight in sheltering them from some things. It’s ALL coming eventually, right? They will see it all and know it all whether they like it or not. Oh, they know a few things I wish they didn’t, but it was time.....whether I like it or not. One of those “delights” is being able to address a mature matter face to face in the safety of our den, or around the dinner table, or reading about unfamiliar situations all cuddled up on the couch BEFORE it sends shock waves throughout their little central nervous system. It’s significant for me to know their initial reaction- the reaction I have regrettably lost through all my years- about something grievous or inappropriate or just downright mischievous. Obviously, at times, their reactions are right on and with the right material, down right funny. A couple of weeks ago, I chose some purposeful exposure.
I began reading Barbara Robinson’s The Best Christmas Pageant Ever to them and you would have thought, by their faces and gasps, I was reading some cheesy grocery store romance novel to them. Oh my. I had the hardest time maintaining a straight face, agreeing with their incredulous expressions with my eyes, eyebrows and the shaking of my head. They were horrified, but also intrigued by the Herdman characters. If Brighton asked once, he asked a hundred times to look at the group picture of the six kids. It’s a simple pencil drawing but has no trouble communicating their boisterous badness. BAD---NESS. These kids are just horrible. They run wild in the neighborhood, set fire to things, spread lies about other kids, steal, smoke cigars, plant poison ivy in their front yard, have a bobcat for a “pet”, say bad words (though we never actually see any of them in the book), ridicule and mock everyone in the school and the list goes on. Needless to say, my kids were WIDE-EYED and motionless any time we picked up the book to read and they always begged for more. I haven’t figured out if this is good or bad-- see how this naughtiness is so interesting, so mysterious to them?? I want to be the one who digs into it with them-- to talk ALL about it and remove that “mysteriousness” from it like a magician revealing his secrets. Not so appealing anymore. Not that impressed anymore.
This story definitely turns sweet, but only a couple of times. My favorite part is when the director of the pageant realizes the Herdman children don’t know the Christmas story. At all. Nada. Their questions are genuine, “Who were the shepherds?” “Where did they come from?” “What’s an inn?” “What happened first?” And my favorite, one of the children demanding, “Begin at the beginning!!” Their honest interpretation is that Joseph was a sort of dead beat because the Bible doesn’t record him explaining his wife’s dire situation. Imogene let’s out a couple of “MY GOD(s)!!” in disbelief of how the couple was treated. “Not even for Jesus??” she exclaims. When the Herdmans find out they placed the Baby Jesus in a feed box, in exasperation one of the children yells out, “Where was the Child Welfare?” And maybe the most horrific realization was that Jesus was “just born and [they were] already trying to kill him!” They were not at all happy when they found out that King Herod died in his sleep as an old man. The Herdmans came up with a much more exciting and vindictive end to his life to conclude the pageant but the director wouldn’t allow it, of course. I won’t give away the last chapter-- the actual pageant. It does not disappoint and for some, you might want a tissue handy.
It was great for my children to hear this book and see the Christmas story through children who had only heard the amazing account only a few days before. I liked a lot about the book but the key for me was that my kids saw how the story of Jesus and His COMING TO US can soften even the seemingly hardest hearts they EVER will encounter. And when they do encounter these hard hearts, maybe they won’t be intimidated or intrigued. I hope they remember Imogene Herdman and what His story did to her heart.
I am 100% sure the book will be requested next year.
“Hey!!! Unto to you a child is born!”