I have thought a lot about teaching values, morality, and faith. Two of my sons are grown and on their own, and two are still at home. Because we have always done school at home, many, many words have been spoken about many subjects, and almost all of them were steeped in my values and experiences.
What my kids have "caught" from these discussions and our lives together was not so much the words I spoke, but how I lived. That, of course, is how values are translated.
A few weeks ago, I sat with other mothers while we waited for our children, who were involved in different classes. One of the younger moms sat on the floor with two little ones, about 4 and 5 years old. She drilled them on their memory verses and the books of the Bible. One of them sweetly, obediently, lisped as he was directed. The other, a more independent girl, wandered under chairs, stared at people, and was otherwise uncooperative. She was threatened regularly with having to sit and wait in the car by herself, then going straight to her room when she got home. I think a dessert was withheld as well.
This mom could have been me 20 years ago. I don't mean to say that I have matured past that. Mostly, I am tired. I do understand the value of "hiding it in their hearts." But I don't think the behavior of these little ones will necessarily translate into similar adult behavior. My long years of mothering have brought me to the conclusion that there is no formula for success, a formula which will produce happy, productive adults.
What I earnestly hope is that my kids have not caught my pettiness, my selfishness, my fears. I have prayed repeatedly over the years that God would enable me to do my very best as a mother, then fill in the gaps Himself. What my sons can't help but know is that their mother has loved them desperately. And that will have to be enough.
Marcia, I think you have caught the essence of "teaching." They should call it osmosis instead of learning, especially where values are passed on. Children learn on a kinetic and tactile level much sooner and more comprehensively than on verbal/literate level. But as mothers, we all find ourselves trying to pound the literal truth into their little brains.
Praise the Lord that as mothers, we have the advantage of a love-link to our little students. They will learn from us because they know who we are and how much they can trust us. Very few teachers can claim that, and hence, have much less impact on the values kids pick up.
I'm sure my own two assimilated not a few of my values and characteristics (pettiness, judgmentalism, insecurities) that I wish they had rebelled against. But as Marcia's title warns: we are crooked souls trying to teach other crooked souls. The Bent Ones have had their way in this world for a very long time. (See Lewis' Out of the Silent Planet.)
But that desperate love Marcia ended with: that is something no Bent Ones can copy or own. It is a gift our children can hold and cherish and even in its imperfection, it reflects the King of Love. It is the mystery that is clear as day.