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The ears and memories of baby elephants

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By Dr. Andy and Renie Bowman

Back in the ancient days of Fred Flintstone and no cell phones, when he was a young dad and a wet-behind-the-ears pastor, Andy had a habit. No, not a habit like we refer to today. But he unconsciously used a certain phrase – constantly. 

“I’m sick and tired of…” was the opening statement to just about anything that bothered him. In or out of the pulpit. Abuse of children, eating English peas, lazy politicians, endlessly freezing weather – you name it. He had a negative opinion and those around him were going to hear it. The day came when he was finally forced to realize how often that pet phrase escaped his lips.

One evening as we were driving home from a work engagement, we became absorbed in some world-changing discussion. Our two young sons were playing and arguing in the back of the van, totally ignoring the quiet conversation in the front seats. 

Or so we thought. 

Per the usual, in the middle of our discussion Andy finally said, “Well, I for one am sick…” But before he could finish the phrase, our 7-year-old son smoothly and loudly slid in, “and tired!”  


Do we parents realize that the little kids playing in the back of the van have ears that rival 20-year-old elephants? They somehow have the ability to carry on a yelling match with their brother while at the same time listening to every word coming out of Dad’s mouth – eight feet away.

Combine that ability with a child’s built-in belief system that tells them “Mom and Dad are right…period,” and you have a system in place for passing on good and bad tendencies - for generations to come. 

Awesome and fearful to realize we parents hold such power.

Most of us are not continuously reminding ourself that the tiny geniuses sitting in the back seat are learning from us – 24/7. But the old statement, “Children learn what they live with” is true. Those young brains are like dry sponges, they absorb everything. And time doesn’t necessarily erase all they experience.

Angry words impact your family, as much as happy ones. And that three-foot-tall listening sponge you have in your home will soon become an adult, with all the bad and good of childhood imbedded within. 

That means all that carping and yelling of his childhood will get passed on to every new little sponge in his own family. With the grandparents of that new generation sadly shaking their heads and wondering, “Why are little Johnny and Janie so sarcastic and hurtful much of the time?” 

And that generational ball keeps rolling downhill.

The Apostle Paul wrote that we “should not allow worthless rotten speech to come out our mouth, but rather that which builds up and shows kindness to the hearer.” Eph. 4:29.

You may think no one is learning to mimic the good and the bad in you. But there is always someone. You simply may not realize it.

– Yet.

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••• Publisher's note: A free press is critical to having well-informed voters and citizens. While some news organizations opt for paid websites or costly paywalls, The Highland County Press has maintained a free newspaper and website for the last 25 years for our community. If you would like to contribute to this service, it would be greatly appreciated. Donations may be made to: The Highland County Press, P.O. Box 849, Hillsboro, Ohio 45133. Please include "for website" on the memo line.

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