Feeble Knees

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Giving Good Gifts

If you were an eleven year old girl, and your house was already full of bibles, would you really want someone to give you another one for your birthday?

I'm a little exasperated.
I was looking for any tips or clues about what this young girl might like for her birthday. I conferred with another family member, who had asked the girls mom what she might like. The answer? A King James Bible with an index.

Why am I having a hard time believing this?

Am I a terrible person for being skeptical that this girl really wants yet another KJV? For her birthday?

Is it me?

When I was eleven, I was still playing with Barbie® dolls, although somewhat surreptitiously. I'd begun to figure out that it wasn't "cool" anymore among my peers. Oh but I loved playing with them - I loved making up stories and crazy scenarios for my Barbies. I loved putting my words in their mouths. They would act out my trials and tribulations. They took on the names of girls I liked or despised, depending on my mood. They liked or hated the same boys I liked or hated. They were my emotional drawing board where I tried out different scripts and approaches to situations in my life.

I also started keeping diaries around that time. A good one had a little lock on it, so I could pour out my hopes, dreams, likes, dislikes, and daily ennui without fear of prying eyes. I kept them religiously, and over time my focus shifted away from acting out my emotions with dolls to writing them out in words.

Jewelry and nail polish started becoming big at this time too. My older sister had a special rack of little polish-bottle-sized shelves on her bedroom wall that was filled with every conceivable color. I'd agonize over my selection while she waited patiently for me to pick one, then she'd deftly coat each tiny growing nail for me. What a thrill!

That was twenty-two years ago. I suspect that at the core, eleven year olds really haven't changed that much. I do realize that society has, and the things they are exposed to day-to-day are different. Trying to shield a little girl today from all that is out there I'm sure is a harrowing experience, like holding back a crumbling dam.

But is rigid religious indoctrination the antidote? Or is it possible that by shoving bibles at her now, we will cause a little girl to rebel in future?

A scene from Dead Poets Society keeps replaying itself in my head every time I start thinking about this. It is the scene in which Todd is crestfallen upon opening a gift from his parents that turns out to be yet another desk set.

[Todd's present is the same as last year]
Neil: I mean, if I was ever going to buy a desk set... twice! I would probably buy this one, both times! In fact, its shape is rather aerodynamic isn't it? You can feel it. This desk set wants to fly!
[Neil hands the desk set to Todd]
Neil: Todd? The world's first un-manned flying desk set!
[Todd throws it off the roof]
Neil: Oh my! Well, I wouldn't worry, you'll get another one next year.

We could get this young girl yet another bible, per her mother's wishes. But what kind of message does it send?

Believe me when I say that I earnestly hope and pray that this little lass comes to a deep understanding of who Jesus is, what He means to her, and what she means to Him, and the sooner the better. Knowing how precious she is in the sight of the Lord will go a long way towards helping her navigate the many perils of adolescence present in our society today. She knows the gospel. She knows about Jesus. All the time, Jesus, in the morning, Jesus, in the afternoon, Jesus, in the evening, Jesus.

I'm thinking she'd really rather have something else. Jewelry? A pretty journal? A book on horses? I know whatever we give her, she'll be demure and offer a polite thank-you on cue, because that's how it goes every year. But I'm hoping to offer her something that is special just to her, something carefully selected to suit her other interests. I want her to know it's okay to get something other than bibles for her birthday.

Would you buy the bible? Would you get something else? Do you now have or have you raised an eleven-year-old girl?

If so, please help me out here...
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