Amish Children: Just Too Cute!

I gotta admit it. Amish children are too cute.

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.
Since learning of their upbringing, I decided to insure "my" guys always had their special day acknowledged. We were glad they were born and part of our family. And I give lots of "Mom" hugs too!

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.


  1. As a friend to some Amish near me, I can honestly say they remember my birthday and the birthdays of my children as well, or better, than some other people in our lives. There was one time, right after we met, that they invited us over to their house for a celebration of my two kids' birthdays plus two of their kids. Unfortunately, the Bishop got wind of the idea and put the kibosh on it, but the plan was for cake, ice cream, and some fishing at the pond, barefoot :)

    While the world views the giving of gifts as a part of a celebration, my friends view the giving of their time as more valuable. They will drive over an hour, by horse and buggy, to come visit us on Easter Sunday. It is a special time when we are simply friends with few boundaries. Our families can get together and chat, walk the farm, and enjoy the company-

    I know that not all Amish are the way of my friends. They are Old Order Amish- not the Swartzy's. But they are human beings first.

  2. WOW!!! Love learning more about the Amish and you are helping us to see inside their world. Thank you, Brenda, for helping these young ones feel good about who they are and how God made them. Can't wait to read more...

  3. Having met and visited with Amish in Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, I can tell you this is not true for every communities. The Amish I know do celebrate birthdays - usually with a dinner in town at one of the restaurants. Which goes to show how different communities ARE in fact different.

  4. Thank you Blue Eyes, Sheryl, and Vannetta for leaving your comments. Yup, different Orders have different Ordnungs and then each community has its own set of rules/behavior. That's why I want to help readers appreciate the differences and not paint broad strokes on Amish making them all the same.

  5. So good to connect with you again, Brenda, and I can't believe all the insights God has given you into this world that is right here in America, but which most Americans really don't know about. I don't mean to be critical, but it is difficult to understand how parents would purposely not show their children encouragement by demonstrating love and affection and making them feel special. How honored and estreemed Mosie is to you. It seems like you have been given a very special calling as a very wonderful mom to this special young man. What a handsome young man he is.

    1. Thank you Nancy & Lynn. Glad you find this blog helpful & insightful. Lynn, I deeply appreciate your kinds words; yes Mosie is a handsome young man. . .and that's not just because I'm his "mama."

  6. Brenda, it always takes me a few seconds when reading your posts to comprehend that you’re talking about this century – this decade, even. Your ex-Amish adoptees are all younger than my son, who grew up in a different world right here in the same United States! My son did chores too, but we expressed much appreciation for his help (he's grown up to be a very responsible man) and also made time for play and fun learning. And I think it good we were not dependent on him as a child to generate income for our family. I’m grateful he was able to graduate from high school (instead of being limited to 8th grade), discover what skills made him unique, and choose his own profession. I’m thankful too that I was able to give him shoes to wear on hot pavement! The little ones in the Swartzentruber community may be very cute in their little outfits. But as I hear about so many all-grown-up ex-Amish young men and women struggling to forge personal identities, I'm so glad you are able to offer them support and encouragement.