“I’m going to Zanzibar,” Isabelle announced tonight at the dinner table. “I’m taking the car. I get groceries.” Phil and I looked at each other, smiled and told her we’d see her when she got back.

A month ago, I couldn’t have told you Zanzibar existed. Now, thanks to the Internet, I know it’s an island in the Indian Ocean off the eastern coast of Africa. Why is Zanzibar suddenly a household word? It’s in a Muppets-themed book Isabelle got at a garage sale recently.

This time last week, she sat at the table eating her dinner, asking, “I look stupid to you?” We repeatedly told her not to say that because it wasn’t nice, but the more we acknowledged her, the funnier she thought it was. So, we ignored her, all the while trying to figure out where she would have heard a phrase like that. Later that night, I had a revelation. She’d been watching “A Bug’s Life,” and one of the grasshopper characters says, “Do I look stupid to you?”

Oy. Our house isn’t one for coarse or offensive language (though I was really close to swearing the other day when I stubbed my toe in the kitchen), nor do we often have any TV programs on in Isabelle’s presence that would contain that sort of language, so I’m confident she won’t pick that up from us, if she ever does. But I’ve suddenly become aware of just how spongy her little mind is and how much influence her books, movies and the people in her life have on her. And whether she knows what something means or not, she’s going to repeat it.

It’s a reminder to me of how spongy my brain is, too, even if at times it feels more like a worn-out, full-of-holes sponge than one brand-new out of the wrapper. What I see and hear daily enters my brain, and if it isn’t good, then that will affect my whole being. That’s why sometimes I just have to listen to Christian music or read a good book (especially THE Good Book). Too much bad stuff brings me down.

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” (Philippians 4:8)

This verse is often quoted, but I wish I had it memorized so I could train my mind to stay on the right path. I’d love to be able to have a word picture for each of the “whatever” clauses.

Isabelle comes by her sponginess honestly. My parents probably don’t know this story, but I have a clear memory of using a “naughty” word at school one time simply because I didn’t know what it meant. I had been watching a program on TV — some sort of cop show — and the arresting officer told a colleague to “take these
b—–ds away,” referring to the criminals. Sometime later, on the playground, during a game that included jail time, I hollered to a teammate the same phrase, thinking that the “b” word in this case was a synonym for criminals. My friends quickly “shushed” me and looked around to see if any adults had heard me. That was my first clue that maybe I should figure out what a word means before I use it, especially in public.

Given the world we live in, I know it’s only a matter of time before Isabelle hears a “bad” word and repeats it, but I’m hoping that day is later rather than sooner. Still, I’m praying now for the wisdom to not freak out, like my friends on the playground, but to keep the lines of communication open so we can talk about what’s appropriate.

 She’s only two, but kids seem to grow up so fast these days (can I get an “Amen”?) and seem to know more than they should at a young age.

To quote Psalm 19:14: “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord” and may they be words I wouldn’t mind hearing come out of my daughter’s mouth.


One thought on “Mockingbird

  1. I totally had a revelation similar to this this weekend (it was one of many realizations).
    This weekend I was at a college friends house and one of the girls brought her little boy with her and I was blessed enough to get a ride back with her (we’ve had some car issues) since she live pretty close. On the drive back we talked a lot about how much kids take in and understand. Her son’s father has never been in contact with him and after about 3 years of doing everything she can to encourage him to be a part of the little one’s life no matter their relationship she is at the point where she is just loving her son and letting God take care of everything. Anyway, she was talking about how since she became pregnant she has been praying for her son and that he would never harbor bitterness or hate for his dad. She is also REALLY careful about what she says and the emotions she portrays around him. It’s amazing to me that she is so mature and self-aware. As we had this talk Emery (her little boy) was in the back seat and started to say ‘momma, I broke my finger, I broke TWO fingers mom’ over and over. We were both wondering where he got it from and I remembered that this weekend one of our friends had told a story about someone getting her fingers broken. It was a story that lasted maybe two minutes.
    In the same conversation we then talked about how easily bitterness and hate, etc. can take over everything else like a weed if we let it and we don’t surround ourselves with positivity.

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