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Peanut Gooey Parenting

By Debra White Smith Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. MARK 10:14

One fall I purchased a big bag of peanuts with a yummy-sounding peanut brittle recipe on the back of the bag. When I showed the peanuts to my kids, I said, “We’re going to make peanut brittle!” They were delighted, and we began to plan a time in our schedule when we could create the best peanut brittle of the century.

At long last the magic moment arrived. Brooke, still too short to cook without a stool, stood on her kitchen ladder while Brett hovered close. Like normal siblings, they argued over who got to put in the sugar and syrup. Once I convinced them to take turns adding ingredients, they argued over who went first. Finally we got all the ingredients into the boiler and carefully added the peanuts when the recipe said.

According to this recipe, we were supposed to cook the peanuts in the mixture for about 20 minutes. Honestly, that seemed a little odd to me, but since I’ve never actually made peanut brittle, I figured I should go with what the recipe said. After all, it was on the back of the bag.

After the appropriate time had lapsed, we prepared our pan for the brittle by spraying it with olive oil. Then we added the baking soda to the brittle and enjoyed the sight of the mixture foaming like an erupting volcano. With great glee we poured the mixture into the pan and watched as all the fizz evaporated, leaving a graying goo in its wake.

I don’t know what the kids were thinking at that point, but I must admit I had my doubts. The longer the mixture sat in the pan, the weirder it looked. The concoction was an odd shade of grayish-brown. I’ve never seen that exact color before or since. I kept testing the dessert, expecting it to at least start hardening, but it stayed in a limbo state of extra gooey.

Finally my husband walked through the kitchen. He’s the “dessert king” around our house and is usually the one who makes the sweets. He said, “Oooh. That doesn’t look quite right.”

“Yeah, I know,” I replied and grabbed a spoon. I lifted one corner of the peanut-infested swamp substance and had a sudden surge of optimism. “I’m sure it will harden soon,” I said. “After supper, it ought to be just right.”

Silently he raised his brows and meandered along.

Soon supper was served, eaten, and forgotten. I don’t have a clue what we had for the meal that night, but I’ll never forget the peanut brittle. Let’s just say that in order to eat the stuff, we had to dip it out with a spoon. My son experimented with a generous portion of the peanut gooey mixture and declared it was good, even though he labored to chew his first bite. I tried it and realized the stuff was at least good for pulling fillings from cavities—or maybe even a super glue substitute, if you didn’t mind the bumpy peanuts in whatever you were trying to cement together!

At this point, my husband spoke up. Now understand that Daniel is a kind, soft-spoken gentleman who reaps the admiration of many— including me. However, he was moving fast that night, and his green eyes were sparkling with a determination I’m not sure I have ever seen in him before.

“I think it might be a good idea for you to call Joe’s wife,” he said, a hint of desperation in his upbeat suggestion.

“Joe’s wife?” I asked.

“Yes. You know, Joe, who recently retired from work.” He nodded with encouragement.

“Yes,” I said and wondered exactly where he was going with this little suggestion.

“Well, every year, his wife brought the best peanut brittle I’ve ever eaten. It was gold and light and crunchy,” He didn’t say, “Just the opposite of this goo you just cooked.” And, well, it’s probably a good thing! Any man who ever makes such a suggestion to his wife better make sure every expression is innocent and serene. It also doesn’t hurt to bend on one knee and bestow a gentle kiss upon the backs of each hand after offering the advice.

But frankly, Daniel didn’t even give me time to consider calling Joe’s wife or getting miffed or worried that he was not on bended knee. No siree! Before you could say “peanut brittle’ he had called Joe, made his request, and had Joe’s wife on the phone for me. After all, desperate times call for desperate measures.

Soon I held the recipe for golden peanut brittle that tastes like it came from heaven’s very own candy store. Before hanging up, I shared the other recipe with Joe’s wife, and she and I decided the instructions must have been written incorrectly on the bag. Fortunately, my husband readily agreed that my culinary abilities could have never been to blame!

A day or two after I held that recipe in my hands, the kids and I repeated our efforts in the kitchen—this time with grand success! When my husband wandered through the kitchen and witnessed us pouring the golden mixture into the pan, he nodded his approval and said, “Now you’re going to see a difference in this!” as if he were the decade’s prime authority on peanut brittle.

And guess what? He was right! That peanut brittle hardened in no time, and we were all swooning in rapture. That phone call Daniel placed was nothing short of divine intervention!

Sometimes in life, we may think we’re doing the right thing, but like my first peanut brittle recipe, we may be following the wrong instructions. Wrong instructions can come in the form of dysfunctional patterns passed down from one generation to the next, such as perpetual yelling and griping. Or wrong instructions can come in the form of parenting concepts based on isolated scriptures that support unbalanced teaching or discipline over love. Such concepts usually ignore the heart of Christ and place children as less important than adults.

What mothering “instructions” are you living out? If you want to revolutionize your relationship with your kids, start with Jesus first. In Matthew 7:12, Jesus said, “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you.” “Everything” means, well, everything. As mothers, it’s our duty to never treat our children in a way we wouldn’t want to be treated ourselves. This in no way means we don’t discipline them. But even discipline should be carried out in a way that doesn’t destroy the child’s dignity.

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these” (Mark 10:14). Christ Himself calls us to allow our children to come to Him. We hinder their advances toward Christ when we do not emulate Him in front of them and to them.

Just as my right recipe for peanut brittle produced dessert “art,” so using the right recipe for raising our children will produce beautiful results. Jesus Christ is the author of the best child-rearing concepts available. His precepts start with unconditional love and acceptance. We need to incorporate these into our lives and be moms who are willing to treat our children the way we want to be treated.

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Excerpted from It's a Jungle at Home: Survival Strategies for the Overwhelmed Mom by Debra White Smith; Copyright 2006 by Debra White Smith; Published by Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, OR; Used with permission.


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