“Wow!  You have twins! And boys, too.  What a blessing – they will be each other’s best buddy!”  I still remember the comments.  The knowing smiles from family and friends and strangers too, for that matter.  TWIN BOYS.  From the time my sons were born, they attracted all sorts of attention.  People all telling me how lucky I was to have two little boys.  They can play together.  Stand up for each other.  Grow to be men together.  And it was cute.  And convenient.  And it sounded perfect.  Until it wasn’t.   Back then, our son Chris had some special needs which didn’t get diagnosed until he was fourteen years old.  And, for Stephen, being his five-year-old twin brother wasn’t always easy.  Having a brother who often got up too close to you when he spoke.  Talked a bit too loudly even when he was standing right next to you.  Had a difficult time sitting still.  And focusing.  So Stephen got frustrated.  And, not surprisingly, he was MORE than willing to share his frustrations with his brother.
One day my mom came to me and told me how Chris had asked her, “Nana, when will my brother like me?”  My heart fell.  I carried his pain inside me for several days.  Internally winced when people smiled and spoke about the wonder of having twin sons.  That was until I started to notice something.   Noticed they played together.  A lot.  Legos, cars, trains.  Riding their bikes.  Wait a minute.  My sons were actually spending a lot of quality time together.  Now, this was nothing new.  They had always played together well.  So maybe the issue was Stephen and NOT Christopher.  And so, then and there I began to utilize one of the most valuable tools in parenting.  Brainwashing.  No really – it’s amazing.
Let me explain.  I began “catching” my sons having a great time together, which, like I said, happened a lot.  But NOW I would stick my head in the room and say something like, “Hey Stephen, isn’t it WONDERFUL to have a brother to play legos with?”  And when Chris picked out a treat at the Dollar Store for his brother, I would say, “Stephen, isn’t it GREAT to have a brother who picks you out a treat at the store?”  Now, I wish I could say that the moment I made such a comment, Stephen’s eyes opened wide with a new and deep appreciation for the existence of brotherly love, jumped up and gave Chris a huge bear hug.  Nope.  Usually he would just kind of shrug his shoulders and say, “Yeah, sure.”  But I kept at it.  And I am happy (and relieved) to say that, by 2nd grade, my boys were well on their way to becoming the best of buddies.
This month your kiddos will begin discussing RESPECT – showing others they are important by what we say and do.  This is often a difficult one for kids.  Oh, many get the whole “respect my parents and teachers and a police officer stuff” even though we can quibble about how good they are at DOING it.  The difficult part (AND SUPER IMPORTANT part) is to lay the foundation for how they treat everyone else.  The kid in school who is new.  Unpopular.  Dresses differently.  Now we may look at our kids and say, “Not MY kids.”  But before we do, perhaps we need to take a look at ourselves.  As I was trying to think of the things that get in MY way when it comes to respecting others, I realized I often TREAT others the way I do because of how I SEE them.  I also realized I have a tendency to see people through a type of magnifying glass.  One which emphasizes and enhances a person’s NEGATIVE qualities.   Or at least those I think are negative.   Have you ever stared at an object and paid attention to what happens to everything else?  And do we sometimes do this with people, with our eyes staring pointedly at what offends us and their amazing qualities simply blurring out of view?
Today in main service, we celebrated communion.  I sat there with my cracker and my juice and listened to Pastor Mike.  Jesus took two basic elements.  Bread and Wine.  Anyone unfamiliar with this experience could look at a small gluten-free cracker and a tiny plastic cup of grape juice and say, “What’s the big deal?”  As Mike talked about Jesus’ time with His disciples and how He took simple staples and elevated them to significance, I smiled to myself.  That’s what He does.  He takes the ordinary – the common – and He lifts it to significance.  To beauty.   The bread is still bread.  The wine is still wine.  Okay juice.  But suddenly it is IMPORTANT.  It has MEANING.   The ITEM hasn’t changed.  They way we SEE it has.
That’s what I did with my boys.  Chris didn’t change.  Their times together didn’t change.  The way Stephen SAW each of them changed.  And that made all the difference.
When it comes to respect, we parents often emphasize the “pleases” and the “thank-you’s.”  Shake Mr. So and So’s hand.  Hold the door open for the nice lady.  Don’t talk back to grownups.  But is that enough?  I don’t think so. See, I might have been able to teach Stephen to ACT like he liked his brother.  But, until his VIEW of his brother changed, his heart wasn’t going to either.   Maybe that is true for all of us.  Perhaps, while respect might END with an action or a phrase, it BEGINS with our eyes.  With learning to see people as GOD sees them.  By focusing on them. Not as common, ordinary people but as His children.  Ones He was willing to die for.  Turning basic stuff into priceless treasures full of meaning and promise isn’t hard for God.
Actually, it’s His specialty.
Melinda Lamera
Sun Grove Children’s Ministry