It had happened again! I looked over the heads of our children to my husband. In the dim light I could see he was looking very embarrassed. Glancing at my nodding daughter but still alert son, I said just loud enough for the occupants of the front seat of the car to hear, "Honey, you know we promised never to discuss personalities in front of our children?'
My husband, looked relieved, tousled our son's hair and replied, "Yes, I know." Our son immediately feigned sleep and the man in the front seat, looking startled, changed the subject. For the next half hour, conversation was light as we sped home from the zone rally. After checking to see that our son was now really asleep, I leaned forward and apologized for my apparent rudeness.
"I'm very sorry," I started, "but we've dealt with to many PKs (Preacher's Kids) in youth camps who were all mixed up because they had no confidence in anyone. We personally feel it would be detrimental for them to know that any of our church people are anything but the best possible Christians. We can't afford, through careless talk, to let them doubt anyone."
The man, another pastor, apologized profusely, saying he had just forgotten the children were in the back seat. His wife added, "We've just forgotten about children listening since ours are grown and gone."
After the awkward moment had passed, we talked along this very line the rest of the way home. They told us of problems they had had when their children were small, and we finally came to the conclusion that adults just seem to feel that children have no ears.
We talked of certain problems in rearing children in a parsonage, and they asked just what could be done about the problem we had just "very neatly solved."
We told them that, if a very pointed look at the child and then back at the speaker with raised eyebrows did not work, my husband would then say, "Children, would you mind playing upstairs while Mr. and Mrs. So-andSo talk privately with Mom and Dad?" If the same speaker began this again in the child's presence, I would then remember what Fletcher Spruce, then editor of Standard, said some time back—that silence is not always golden; sometimes it's just plain yellow. Then looking straight at the speaker with a kind but determined expression, I would simply say, "Sir, we have a policy in our home not to discuss personalities in front of our children?' This has had to be done very few times, usually to a church member but once to an evangelist, and don't think it was easy!
Everyone has been wonderful about this, and the only thing I can come up with is that people just think children do not listen. Believe me, they do, and they form opinions quickly.
Once while on a trip we discussed something that had been told to us in confidence, supposing our children to be playing a game in the back seat. The next Sunday our daughter told it in class. Since it was a financial difficulty, my husband and I were very red-faced as we tried to explain to the man who had confided to us in private, how it had gotten out.
We are also careful in our family devotions not to pray for God to help Brother S see his need for tithing or for Sister M to stop smacking her children around. This is done in private prayer when the children are away al school or in bed for the night.
It may seem trivial to some and amusing to others, but I want to keep the fact before me that children do have ears, and they are listening all the time. Jesus said in Mark 9:42 that we are not to "cause one of these little ones to stumble," and He had a child sitting on His lap when He said it. If Jesus had to admonish His disciples, perhaps we had better check up on our own conversation.