|Claude Renoir, Peintre by Renoir, 1907||Two Young Girls at the Piano by Renoir, 1892|
“Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.” Ecclesiastes 9:10
I was reviewing some of Renoir’s images yesterday in connection with a project when I happened upon Claude Renoir, Peintre after having just been regarding Two Young Girls at the Piano. Immediately I was struck by the fact that these children were happily pursuing cultural activities without the use of electronic devices, screens, or pre-programmed content. I am blessed to live in a home with creative children like these.
On any given day, their father and I may hear strains of piano, violin, harp, or mandolin wafting from various rooms. Or we may walk by a table to see busy heads bent over colored pencils, watercolor sets, sketch books, craft supplies, and blank cards. Or we may be drawn to the kitchen by the odor of delicious cooking experiments such as new breads, casseroles, and candies underway. Or we may step out to the car only to find that the walkway has been neatly lined with small rocks, the front lawn is decorated with a village comprised of scrap lumber and acorns, and there are new seedlings growing in the small flower bed. Or, upon returning to the house, we may find a child or young adult settled into the corner of a couch reading a good book or scribbling song lyrics, poems, journal entries, or short stories in an open notebook—dictionary, thesaurus, and concordance close at hand.
Are our children unusual? Maybe by today’s standards. But in Renoir’s day, children were expected to be accomplished. They learned languages, painted pictures, filled nature journals, played instruments, cared for animals, knit scarves, built scientific models, conducted experiments, harvested crops, wrote letters, and learned a thousand different hands-on skills because they were in training to become adults who were expected to preserve all that was good and worthy in civilization and pass it on to their own children, who would learn to do the same.
It is not that our children never use a computer or other electronic device, because they do – especially those who are now grown. But the younger our children were, the less time we allowed them to spend in front of a screen (and when we did make allowance for it, the screen time was largely limited to productive time – learning to type or use an image editing program, for example, as opposed to watching hours of cartoons). If we can teach the next generation to produce rather than to consume, to think rather than to be amused, to create rather than to mimic their peers, and to give rather than to take, we will have equipped them to thrive in whatever work and outreach God has for them to do.
If your children are still living under your roof, you have a tremendous opportunity (not to mention duty) to encourage them to grow their minds and their abilities for the Lord’s service—now and in the future. If they are among the many children spending too much time playing computer games, streaming movies, or following social media, do all in your power to redirect their attention now while there’s still time to save them a lifetime of lost hours and missed opportunities. Introduce them to the wide world God made and the multitude of interests they can pursue in it. Read books together, plant a garden, visit a museum, find a widow who needs a friend, take a walk together, purchase a gently used instrument and encourage your child to play around with it, set aside a place for mess making with paints, clay, and building blocks, listen to some beautiful music, put out birdseed and keep track of any little visitors, bake a meal and invite friends to share it, or start some new family endeavor together.
Above all, teach your children to approach each new day with this thought, “This is the day that the Lord hath made—what does He want me to do with it?”
Copyright © 2021