Teaching Culture – Do your kids know your culture?

Brittney Serpell

We have these wonderful neighbors that our kids love and play with most days. The family is not saved but we share a lot of the same core values on different topics.  So as we have grown in our relationship we have now started to carpool with them.

Something that has always been our “normal” is that before the kids get out of the car at school we pray for their day. On the first day I did what we always do and asked who wanted to pray. As soon as I said that I realized that this may make our neighbors uncomfortable. I quickly said to the kids, “Are you ok if we pray for our day at school? We don’t have to if you don’t want us to.” They both said it was fine so Delani, my daughter, prayed for us all.

Well a few days ago we loaded the car on our way to school and as we approached the school I asked “Is it ok if we pray?” From the back of the car our neighbor’s son said “No.” I said, “Ok, that’s fine. Delani, Adalyn if you guys want to pray in your head or once you get out of the car you can.” With a mighty roar of injustice Delani shouted “How come he can make us not be able to pray!?” I told her he wasn’t keeping her from praying but that we were going to be respectful and honoring to what his needs were and not pray right now with him in the car. She could not see why I was letting him control the right to prayer so she decided to ignore what I had said and started praying. I was sad that she made that choice and told her again that it’s our job to be honoring and respectful of his needs and that we would talk about this later. In the end, I told them I loved them and that it was going to be a great day.

After I returned home from work I stopped by the neighbor’s house to chat with the neighbor boy and his mother. I told her all that had happened in the car that morning and how I wanted to make sure he knew I was sorry. I also wanted to make sure he still felt safe to ride with us. I told her how much I value their friendship and that the last thing I want is for her kids to feel uncomfortable with us. She thanked me for coming over and that I showed so much respect for her family and my approach to protecting how they felt.

Once I got back in the house I called Delani down. I asked her if she thought she had a mess to clean up with our neighbor. She was a bit confused, “Mom, why does he get to make the rule if I can pray or not?”  “He doesn’t,” I replied, “but it’s our job to demonstrate God’s love for people by being respectful of their feelings and needs.” To which then she replied, “But He’s not even saved. So God doesn’t love him.” I have to say at that moment I felt like I must have failed as a parent! How did she not understand that God loves EVERYONE!?

“Delani, God loves everyone. We’re all his children. What you’re saying is like if dad and I only loved Adalyn and not you and Lincoln. That would be horrible! God created all of us and loves us all the same even if they’re not saved.” Delani took this in for a moment and said, “Oh, so God loves him just like he loves me?” “Just as much!” I replied, “So do you think you maybe have a mess with our friend?” You could tell that she understood what we were talking about and with much conviction she said, “Yes, I do. I will make sure I talk to him tomorrow before we get in the car.” I was so proud of her and replied, “Thanks baby girl, I love you.”

I think it’s easy to assume that our kids know our culture because they see us and watch us. But really we still have to remember to teach them outside of us just living our lives.  Through this little encounter Delani has learned first hand how we approach people who disagree or feel uncomfortable around our “normal”.  I want my children to be known for being fearless lovers of God and ambassadors of His love. I hope that through this situation and many more to come that my children learn from Ben and I, that as a Serpell we love people just as Christ loves us.  This is the culture that we hope to pass down to them and they on to their own children.


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