"The best things in life are not things." Amish Proverb
Few would disagree that an Amish childhood is a special one. The best of all, perhaps. Secure, safe, enveloped in family and meaningful traditions. Even those who have left the church reflect on their childhood with fond, wistful memories. Raised in rural settings, Amish children have remarkable freedom—the run of the farm with very little supervision (or so they think!)—with time to play, to explore, to be kids. “We weren’t plugged into a TV or an iPod,” said one Amish farmer in Ohio. “We relied on our imaginations.”
I asked my Amish or formerly Amish friends this question: What made your childhood so special?
Here are some responses to that question, in their own words:
“The amount of quality time a family spends together. I was one of thirteen kids. My family had a dairy of sixty cows, and we milked them all by hand, twice a day. I remember being only three or four years old and having the job of holding the cow’s manure-caked tail so it wouldn’t hit my dad’s face as he milked. We would sing songs while we milked—gospel songs, all kinds of songs—in the quiet of that barn.” Mose Gingerich, raised in an Old Order Amish family in Wisconsin.
“I would have to say it’s because we were involved in everything. We worked alongside our parents; we always felt like we were needed and appreciated.” Mary Ann Kinsinger, raised Old Order Amish in Somerset, Pennsylvania. She writes a blog about her childhood, A Joyful Chaos.
“We had a farm. Dad was at home. We were all together, out in the country. We were taught a wonderful work ethic. I appreciate it all the more the older I get. It’s a real blessing if you’re taught to work even if you don’t get paid. And finally, I think growing up in a godly home makes an Amish childhood special. Of course, some homes are more godly than others. But I cherished my godly upbringing.” Barbara Weaver, Old Order Amish raised in Napanee, Indiana.
“The quiet. I remember being out in the barn where there was absolute quiet. No radios, no cars, no nothing. Just the sound of the cows lulling and the horses stamping their hooves in their stalls.” Eli Beachey, Old Order Amish raised in Adams County, Indiana.
“There’s a oneness in the home among the Amish,” saidys Monk Troyer, whose father was a minister in an Old Order Amish church. “Mom and Dad were home. Children were the priority. I know it might not be possible in today’s families to have that. It seems as if they need to have two incomes. But it’s the best thing I can think of about being Amish—Mom and Dad were home.”
Time together as a family. Time with Mom and Dad. Time without electronic distractions. Time to be a child, to play, to learn skills, to explore the natural world. The Amish have a saying: “The best thing you can spend on your children is time.” Just . . . time.
About Suzanne Woods Fisher: She is an author of bestselling fiction and
non-fiction books about the Old Order Amish. Learn more about Suzanne, her books, and Amish Wisdom, her weekly radio show, by stopping by www.suzannewoodsfisher.com.
Excerpted from Amish Values for Your Family with permission by Revell Books.