The "mom" in me wants to cuddle 'em in my arms. They dress like miniature adults, speak Deutch before English - which they learn in kindergarten - have angelic innocent faces, and they're entrusted with fieldwork and kitchen duty before they leave elementary school.
Ever try talking to their wee ones at Walmart? They gaze at you like deer caught in headlights.
Why? First, they probably don't have a clue what you're saying as you're speaking English and they don't understand your foreign language!
Second, they've probably been sternly warned, "Baheft dich!" Translation: behave yourself! If you would've asked, "vhee getes?" they would understand you to ask, "How's it going?"
Mosie, Josh, and Harvey have shared with me how growing up without television, computers, or telephones gave them time to use their imaginations and make up games. They were preserved from the harsh realities seen on our TV news. At one recent gathering we playfully teased about "Amish feats of strength" while the guys demonstrated their made up childhood games. They're extremely competitive. Is that Amish or is that is boy?
By age 10, Harvey harnessed a team of horses and was plowing fields late into the night. Young Mosie quickly and adeptly harnessed Marcie, the family's "fastest horse," when they were late for church. Josh was outside hewing trees as a child. They all took part in the care of their family livestock, gardening, and other farming duties.
Unfortunately, since Amish don't take pictures, none of the guys - nor we - have photos of their childhood. Harvey told me that both male and female babies wear dresses until age two, then the toddlers wear gender-specific clothes.
I can image my guys with their handmade blue pants and shirt with snaps, no underwear (yes!), black lace up shoes - or barefoot - and hat; straw in summer, wool in winter.
As "scholars" in Amish school they strolled barefoot, toting their packed lunch, beside the road toward a one-room building. Mosie said in the hotter months, he'd walk the white line of the road as white was cooler on his bare feet than the blacktop.
When not in school or doing farm chores, barefoot Harvey walked across the road with any number of his 11 siblings and fishing pole to fish in the neighbor's pond. I can "see" our Harvey as a child because we were at his farm twice after my daughter married him. Sitting in the house, talking to his parents, I spied a little, cherub-cheeked, long haired boy peeking in the window. Harvey's father - the Bishop - motioned for the youngster to enter the house. The lad quietly entered, barefoot, timid, and stared at us - the strange English couple in his mommy and daudy (grandma and grandpa) house.
Harvey's father spoke in Deutch, then turned to us, and introduced one of his 120 grandchildren, Harvey. Little Harvey shuffled his feet in silence with his head down-turned sporting a slight grin. Our words must've sounded strange and our clothing unusually colorful. After a few minutes, little Harvey relaxed and began teasing his daudy by pinching his leg. Yep, I can picture our son-in-law Harvey as the curious, slightly chubby, shy, ornery tyke in blue.
In their Swartzentruber Order,
- they never exchanged cards,
- celebrated birthdays, or
- decorated for holidays.
- Birthdays were just another workday. As children, they never felt special.
- One explained to me that Amish parents fear bragging on a child, complimenting him, or showing special attention will raise a prideful child. It's was their experience to never hear either parent verbally approve or give a hug.
- Harvey said in all the years his parents were married, he never saw them hug each other but, that's a different post on marriage.
Watch us celebrating ex-Amish Levi's birthday in the AMERICAN EXPERIENCE "The Amish" on PBS link.
The first year as Mosie's English parents, we decorated a cake, ate KFC, and gave him gifts. Surprise! Mosie expected nothing. I delighted in making my "son" his first birthday cake. The second year, it was a party at a Mexican restaurant. The next year, and turning 22, we commissioned a special cake. At that time, Mosie was working at a horse farm and learning farrier skills, our cake resembled a corral with horseshoes atop.
All my children are special. ~Brenda
(c)Copyright 2013, Brenda Nixon.