The Wilders’ Cup and Saucer

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James and Angeline Wilder faithfully taught their children to obey, to be respectful, and to be honest. They took their children to church on Sundays. They taught them how to raise potatoes and keep corn from freezing, how to gather berries and nuts, how to raise livestock and how to milk cows, how to gather hay and how to store it in the barn, how to make butter, how to milk cows, how to gather eggs, how to cook and clean, and how to blacken the fancy stove in the parlor.

Someone had taught Mr. and Mrs. Wilder how to do those things. They passed that knowledge on to their children.

In Deuteronomy 11:19, God told the Israelites how to teach His words to their children.

You shall teach them to your sons,
talking of them when you sit in your house
and when you walk along the road
and when you lie down and when you rise up.
Deuteronomy 11:19

That is the teaching method that Mr. and Mrs. Wilder used to teach their children what they believed was essential for them to know. They taught them when they sat at home, when they rode to Malone or to the timber lot in the wagon or on the sleigh,  when Almanzo and Royal climbed the stairs to go to bed, . . .

Stairs to the attic in the Wilder home

. . . and when Mother called Eliza Jane and Alice to come help her with breakfast.

Wilder kitchen

God told Israelite parents something else to do in the verse before Deuteronomy 11:19. Before telling them to teach their children, God told the parents:

You shall therefore impress
these words of mine
on your heart and on your soul;
and you shall bind them
as a sign on your hand,
and they shall be as frontals on your forehead.
Deuteronomy 11:18

Parents need God’s words impressed on their own hearts and souls before they can teach them to their children.

After years of teaching their children at home and on the road and at bedtime and at getting up time, Mr. and Mrs. Wilder sent Eliza Jane, Royal, and Alice to the Academy in Malone. After only few days at the Academy, Eliza Jane came home uppity. She was aghast at how her father drank his tea, and she forcefully told her mother so.

Mr. Wilder drank his tea from a saucer. Eliza Jane complained to her mother that it wasn’t the style anymore to drink tea out of a saucer. She  said that nice people drink it from a cup. Mrs. Wilder whirled around from her dishwashing . . .

. . . to set Eliza Jane straight, telling her that they weren’t going to change for some modern idea she got at school.

How to drink tea is a very benign modern idea (of course, the disrespect was a different matter and Mrs. Wilder was right to, as Barney Fife used to say, “Nip it in the bud!”). Other modern ideas might not be so benign. Some modern ideas might be downright devastating.

Our children are learning in every place that they sit and walk and go to bed and rise. It is up to us be sure that what they are learning is what God wants them to learn.

Take hold of instruction; do not let go.
Guard her, for she is your life.
Proverbs 4:13


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