I wondered about the word, “grapes.”
I was puzzled by the word, “apples.”
However, when the words “French fries” appeared, my puzzlement and wonderings were immediately eclipsed by suspicion.
There is a familiar idiom that reads, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” Well, what happens when I realize that we have reached the third generational act of being made the fool?
Who was responsible for this tom-foolery of “grapes, apples, and French fries?”
I won’t beat around the bush. It was Jake.
Once again, we had another “I’m-not-making-this-up” moment of truth in our house.
Jake had just handed me his list of weekly spelling words. Each week, Jake and Caleb make a 15 word selection from their spelling books which contain all of the words they are required to learn this year in our little Happy Blue School.
Three weeks ago, the word “grapes” appeared on his 15 word list. I honestly was surprised to see the word because Jake already knows how to spell it. Yet, I decided to let it go and labeled the word ‘grapes’ as just one of those contextual words that Jake needed to learn how to spell. In addition, the truth of the matter was that both Jake and Caleb do not like pre-tests. Even if they already know how to spell a word, because the word is on the list, they need to keep it there. They won’t pretest themselves. They want to leave every word on their lists. So, that is what I did with the word ‘grapes.’ We left it there.
Last week, Jake came up to me again. This time, embedded in his 15 word spelling list was the word, ‘apples.’
I made note of the word and said, “Jake, really? Apples? Apples cannot possibly be on your list?”
Jake responded, “Yep! It’s on my list.”
Believing the little (actually, he’s not so little anymore) deceiver, I let it go again! Shame on me!
Then this morning, Jake approached me one.more.time.
This time the two words listed among his spelling words were “French fries.”
“French fries?!” I exclaimed. “French fries?!” Jake, there is no possible way that French fries is listed in your spelling book.”
Jake smiled gleefully and replied, “Yes, they are, Mom! Just take a look!”
I opened his spelling book, and true to his word, the words ‘French fries’ were hand-written over one of his spelling words. I looked over the page and discovered the words ‘grapes’ and ‘apples’ also written in other spaces where original spelling words had once been printed.
“Jake,” I enquired. “What is going on here? Why are you writing in your own spelling words each week?”
My sweet and tender-hearted boy replied, “Mom, I didn’t want to learn those words that were there because they are mean words.”
“What?” I asked. I knew from experience with Jake, that my son would have a reason for his actions. Rather than make an assumption, I wanted to understand why Jake would erase only one word per week and replace it with one of his favorite foods.
“Look, Mom,” Jake persisted. “The words I covered over are mean words. They aren’t nice.”
I surveyed the letter fragments left underneath Jake’s hand-printed ‘grapes,”apples,’ and ‘French Fries.’ The letter remnant spelled out ‘furious,’ ‘vicious,’ and ‘frustrated.’
Jake was right.
‘Grapes,’ ‘apples,’ and ‘French fries’ garner a far more positive feeling tone than the three words he had erased and attempted to cover. Favorite foods have a way of making us feel good, don’t they? Jake wasn’t necessarily trying to get out of doing his spelling work. Instead, Jake had self-selected words that made him feel happy and perhaps words that he wanted to be associated with in his life.
As some of you may know, I am reading Romans 12 once a day for 2016. As I reflected on Jake’s word choice, these words from Romans 12 came to mind:
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. New International Version, Romans 12:9
The Message records these words another way:
Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good.
Now, Jake wasn’t necessarily thinking about loving from the center of who he is when he replaced his spelling words. Yet, what Jake was doing was acknowledging that the words ‘furious,’ ‘vicious,’ and ‘frustrated’ were words that could be used against others or perhaps even against oneself. He didn’t like them. He didn’t want to learn them. Jake consciously made the decision to disassociate himself from words that symbolized harm.
Wouldn’t it be amazing if we all made a similar, conscious choice?
To choose words that made us happy.
To choose words that offered kindness.
To choose words that go beyond pretense and politeness.
To choose words that inspire people to become better people.
To choose words that express compassion.
To choose words that honor others in sincere, heartfelt ways.
In light of all that is happening in this world and what is choosing to be said, what if we chose to erase some of those furious, vicious and frustrating words and replaced them with grapes, apples and French fries and other feel good words of grace.
Jake did it.
Can’t we do the same?