One of the great things about living in Oklahoma is that there are still a few kind souls who love to garden and raise fresh produce. Several times throughout the summer, our neighbor, Tony, shares from the abundance of his garden. There is nothing like a vine ripe tomato, fresh squash or one of my all-time favorites, okra! Heat up the skillet, add a little oil, dance slices of okra around in a bowl of corn meal, throw them to the fire and you are on your way to some good southern cooking.

I recently sat in the kitchen wolfing down piping hot okra as fast as my wife could rescue them from the frying pan. Realizing my love for fried okra, my wife relinquished her usual swatting that ensues when I invade the kitchen before dinner is on the table.

Before I knew it, I had eaten a plate full of okra. I think my wife was testing just to see how far I would go. She learned, when it comes to fried okra, it is every man for himself!

Like a cat at an unguarded fish bowl, I was near my limit when my youngest daughter appeared. As I polished off the remaining crumbs clinging to the bottom of the platter, she announced, “Man, dad sure loves Oprah.” I nearly choked on the corn meal. It was all I could do to keep from bursting into laughter.

“Dad loves Oprah?” Talk about polar opposites. I can hear her now as she plays with her friends, “My dad really loves Oprah. Does your dad love Oprah as much as my dad?”

Once again, I was reminded that when it comes to raising children, so much of what we want them to learn is caught, not taught, and even then, further explanation may be required. One of my cousins recently e-mailed me two stories that further illustrate how kids are always watching and listening.

As the story goes, a wife invited some people to dinner. At the table, she turned to her 6-year-old daughter and said, “Would you like to say the blessing?” “I wouldn’t know what to say,” the girl replied. “Just say what you hear Mommy say,” the wife answered. The daughter bowed her head and said, “Lord, why on Earth did I invite all these people to dinner?”

Another mother was preparing pancakes for her sons, Kevin, age 5, and Ryan, age 3. The boys began to argue over who would get the first pancake. Their mother saw the opportunity for a moral lesson. “If Jesus were sitting here, He would say, ‘Let my brother have the first pancake, I can wait.'” Kevin turned to his younger brother and said, “Ryan, you be Jesus!”

Such are the challenges of the modern-day parent. In the end, the greatest lessons in life are often lived out before the little eyes that watch and wonder at us all. God help us!