This morning I had to remember something that I needed to get done in the afternoon. So I repeated an abbreviated statement to myself, a summary of the task, FIVE times. Mrs. McCullough, my third grade teacher at Thomas Johnson Elementary School in South Baltimore, taught us that if you wanted to remember something, repeat it to yourself five times.
Mrs. McCullough had white hair, wore a white button down sweater and looked like somebody's grandma (probably was). Sweet and loving, she made learning enjoyable. I have used that five times memory principle for ...well...a long time (like 50 years, can you believe it?). Whenever I needed to remember to remember something vitally important, I did what she said. And as far as I know (or can remember), it has worked.
I met a father of two daughters, who were older teenagers at the time, lament that his kids blew off his teaching and, even more hurtful, his values. They blindly and arrogantly plowed on with their lives, making choices that he thought would certainly harm them.
I was single, in my late twenties at the time, and I said, offering some encouragement from my own experience, "Well, maybe they will learn in retrospect." They weren't hearing his wisdom at the time, but someday his words may replay in their heads, and descend to their hearts.
That's my hope as a dad myself. I now have one college-age daughter and another in middle school. Two different stages of mental impairment are represented in that, largely due to the blindness caused by immaturity. I remember how smart I thought I was when I was their age. And I keep that in mind whenever I try to impart some wisdom to either of them. After all, how can someone as out of touch and stupid as their father tell them anything about real life?
How do I impart what I have learned, especially through mistakes and poor choices, without sounding preachy? How do I speak of what is right and good to a determined teen who thinks she knows what's right for her, and that what feels good now must therefore be good?
Now, after my parents are gone, I hear their words and I get their points. And I hate to admit that.! But what I have learned to realize in this is that my own kids, like me, may despise Dad now, may think I'm out of touch, and may blow off whatever wisdom I may share. But somewhere deep within them, there is a storage place. And from that place, at perhaps just the right time, they will recall "something Dad said about ..." and they will learn in retrospect.
The principle stated in Proverbs gives me hope for the long haul: "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it." (Proverbs 22:6)
The key word there is, "when he is old". It may take that long for the stubborn, the rebellious, and the proud one to learn what they always had known was right.