“Children are loved but not adored.” Amish proverb
Kristina, a curly haired three-year-old with a stubborn streak, didn’t like to wait until grace was over to start on her meals. After all, she was hungry! While everyone’s head was bowed, she would quietly reach out and grab a bread roll or a strawberry or a corn cob. The Amish pray silently before a meal, and then they pray after a meal. “We give thanks and we return thanks,” Kristina’s father, Mose Weaver, explained. “And it was time for Kristina to learn to obey.”
Mose and Sallie Weaver weren’t going to dismiss Kristina’s willfulness as age appropriate. Nor were they going to assume that she would grow out of this in time. For three meals a day, Mose held Kristina on his lap during grace, enclosing her little hands in his large, work-roughened ones. Before a meal and after a meal. It took a week before Kristina was able to sit back in her chair and be trusted not to sneak a little hand up onto the table and poke a finger in a jar jam.
Obedience—a word that isn’t even very popular in our modern society—tops the list of values that Amish parents want their children to embrace. The ritual of pausing before a meal for silent grace might seem small but, to the Amish, it is symbolic of something much bigger. This discipline, difficult for a hungry little one, is the first step in expressing gratitude to God.
“We see parenting as our main job,” Mose said. “It’s a full-time responsibility, given to us by God. We need to pay attention to little things, because little things become big things. If we didn’t take the time to teach Kristina to obey now, imagine what things might be like later on.” He lifted his bushy eyebrows and rolled his eyes toward heaven. “Because that little girl has a mind of her own!”
And this is a man who should know a thing or two about parenting. Mose is the father of eleven children.
So here’s a question for you:
The Amish view children as a gift from God. Every baby is celebrated, whether he or she is a first born or last born, healthy or “special” (that’s the term the Amish use for a handicapped child). They love their children, but they do not adore them. How would you describe the difference?
Suzanne Woods Fisher is a bestselling author of Amish fiction and non-fiction, and a columnist for Christian Post and Cooking & Such magazine. The Search won a 2012 Carol Award. The Waiting was a finalist for a 2011 Christy Award. The Choice was a finalist for a 2011 Carol Award. The Letters is a finalist for a Christian Retailing 2014 Best Award. Amish Peace: Simple Wisdom for a Complicated World and Amish Proverbs: Words of Wisdom from the Simple Life were both finalists for the ECPA Book of the Year (2010, 2011). Her interest in the Amish began with her grandfather, who was raised Plain in Franklin County, Pennsylvania. She travels back east a couple of times each year for research.
Suzanne’s latest release, The Imposter, is now available!