“. . . he commanded our forefathers to teach their children, so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born.” – Psalm 78:5-6
Recently I got charged with the responsibility of helping our seven-year-old granddaughter, Olive who is in second grade, with her math homework. The assignment, a page of simple addition math problems, seemed easy enough, after all I have had addition and subtraction mastered since . . . well since I was her age. But as I studied the assignment it was not simply about deriving the correct answers, instead about using a specific method for solving addition problems, one that made absolutely no sense to me. Suddenly, the lyrics from the 1970 hit song by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young came to mind, “Teach your children well. Their father’s hell did slowly go by.” And what a failure I was at teaching well! That is, until I finally figured out their methodology.
Long before Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and their famous recording, Psalm 78 delivered a similar message, to teach our children well. But the emphasis was not on teaching arithmetic (which thankfully lets me off the hook), but about lessons from history, specifically about the Jewish nation from the time of slavery in Egypt, through the Exodus, to the time of David’s reign. It should be told over and over, the Psalmist urges, from one generation to the next so they would not forget God and make the same mistakes as their ancestors. That is, “Teach your children well. Their father’s hell did slowly go by.”
Fortunately, helping my grandchildren with their schoolwork is seldom a responsibility that falls on me as a grandparent; rather, that responsibility lies in the more capable hands of their teachers and parents who are on the front lines. But that does not dismiss grandparents to the sidelines, to being hands-off. In fact, among the many blessings of being a grandparent, for me at least, is the opportunity to right some of the wrongs I may have made in parenting my own children and having a second chance to teach and influence a new generation, not about arithmetic, but life and values and wisdom, our relationship with God, seeds sewn that may not sprout until long beyond my years.
“Teach your children well . . . so the next generation will know, even the children yet to be born,” not just for the sake of our families, but for the well-being of all mankind.