If you know anything about me at all, you know that I have recently become a grandfather.
My grandson, Titus, turned a year old just a few weeks ago. Wanting to be good grandparents who don’t rely on electronic gadgets to entertain him, my wife and I have bought books that were familiar to us growing up that we can read or sing together. I don’t know how many times I have sung “Itsy Bitsy Spider“ to Titus as I turn the pages.
It’s not quite the same story as I had growing up, though. This one has a Muppet named Elmo who’s looking for the itsy bitsy spider, and you can push buttons on the side of the book to make different animal sounds. Since Titus can’t read, I’m singing the original version.
We’ve also become adept at singing “Old McDonald Had a Farm,” and Titus is now making some of the animal sounds. But through this process, I’ve learned that many of the songs I sing are not quite right. I grew up singing “Patty cake, patty cake, baker’s man.” But I discovered that it’s really “Pat-a-cake, pat-a-cake, baker’s man.” “Pat-a-cake” does make a lot more sense. I was always a little suspicious why a baker’s man would be called Patty Cake, and why was Patty taking all the credit for making those cakes, anyway?
The more I look at these innocent children’s nursery rhymes, the less sure I am that I want my grandson to learn them. Why should we celebrate the fact that London Bridge is falling down? And why did Jack and Jill go up the hill to fetch a pail of water? Were they too poor to have indoor plumbing? Most people know that you go downhill to look for water, not up.
Why we do we sing about three rodents who are vision-impaired? Besides, if they’re blind, how did they know to chase the farmer’s wife? In “Rock-a-Bye-Baby,” why is the baby up in the tree in the first place? Aren’t there laws against this? Then we sing, “When the bough breaks, the cradle will fall, and down will come baby, cradle and all.” Is no one concerned about getting the baby down before the bough breaks?
And why do we like the nursery rhyme “There Was an Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe”? You can see the problem right from the beginning: “She had so many children, she didn’t know what to do.” OK, where is the father of these children? Something seems a little fishy here. And the rhyme continues, “She gave them some broth without any bread; then whipped them all soundly and put them to bed.” It sounds to me like a little intervention needs to take place. I could go on, but I think I‘ve made my point. Upon close examination, these songs add little value to a child’s life.
Wouldn’t it be much better to teach a Bible story—not as a fairy tale—but as the truth that comes from the Word of God? My young niece came to stay with us not long ago, and she had received a children’s Bible for her birthday. She asked if I would come to her room each night so she could read a Bible story to Uncle Walker before she went to sleep. Slowly, she read each word as we learned about God and how He saved Moses by floating him in a basket or how Jesus performed a miracle and raised Lazarus from the dead. Every Bible story reflects the character of God.
The deepest desire in my heart is that my grandson knows more than “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” or “Old McDonald Had a Farm.” I want him to know “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” I want this truth to be spoken into him every day. I want him to know that, because of Jesus, he is fearfully and wonderfully made. I want him to know that God loved him so much that he sent Jesus, His only begotten Son, to take care of his sin problem. I want him to know that it doesn’t end there, because God has told him in Jer. 29:11: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord. “plans to prosper and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
While London Bridge is falling down, blind rodents are running the streets and a lady has too many children and too little grace, the stories of the Bible lead to life and hope. I may not have much say as a grandfather, but as long as I have breath, I will speak to my grandson the things of God.