I'm fascinated by how the human mind works. If your stored experiences were warm and loving, they're probably precious to you. You can look back and almost relive them. But if you were neglected or abused as a child, or you never had a father, or you had a mother who hated you, there are dark clouds lingering in what one popular song referred to as "the back roads of my mind." But we want to focus today on the happy memories that remain.
One of God's richest blessings to me has been the memories that are almost all warm and positive because I had such a happy childhood. I was also given a vivid memory, which works something like a video recorder capturing the highlights and they began very early. For example, one of my earliest recollections occurred when I must have been 18 months of age or earlier because I was in a bassinet. I don't remember how old I was, but you didn't stay in a bassinet very long.
I was lying there and a woman, an older woman came and looked over at me and smiled. She turned out to be my great grandmother. Her name to us was Nanny. I remember her leaning over and attending to me and talking to me. She was wearing a cap. I didn't know it then, but it was wool. There were strands of yarn hanging down where I was and on the bottom of each of them was a furry ball. I was playing with those furry balls. I remember that vividly. Again, that was confirmed by my great grandmother later. I went on to love her. She lived to be 99 years of age, and we had a wonderful relationship.
I have many memories of Nanny, and that was one of my earliest. Believe it or not, I even remember the smell of Pablum. People today don't even know what Pablum was. It was a food that was fed to babies. If I'd known any better, I wouldn't have eaten it. But I remember that smell today and a number of early memories like that. I have maybe 30 memories at two and three years of age. When I was three, I was walking with my dad on a street near my home. He was holding my hand and we were walking along. He was six foot two. He was a big man and I was very little. I remember being very proud to be holding the hand of my father. That is just a brief memory.
I don't know where we were going or what we said, but that's a memory. So I have many vivid memories that occurred in my early, early years. And then I was married to Shirley, obviously, and five years later, my daughter Danae came along. She turned out to have an even better memory than I have. Honestly, she does. It's almost scary to know that that little video camera was running inside her head from early childhood because she remembers things I don't even want her to remember. But I have really enjoyed when we get together, sharing our memories because they were precious to both of us. I remember a lot of what she remembers.
So, we thought we would share some of that with you today. Danae, it's such a pleasure to work with you in this context, or any, for that matter. I'm delighted to have you. Welcome.
Danae Dobson: Dad, thanks for having me on, not only as your daughter, but as your guest. Instead of waiting until the end of the program, I just would like to honor you right now by saying how much I appreciate the time and the commitment that you've put into your role as a dad, particularly when I was growing up. I know that the Lord has given you a lot of responsibility in ministry, which has been very time-consuming through these past four decades now. And yet, you've always been there for Ryan and me, no matter what our need was.
On Father's Day a couple years ago, I gave you a little decorative porcelain tray that has a sketch of a dad hugging his six-year-old daughter and the words underneath read, "Always there." That's how I feel about you, Dad. I'm so grateful.
Dr. Dobson: Oh my. What a good way to start the program, Danae. I consider that little gift as a treasure. I don't have it in front of me, but it has writing on it that just spoke my heart. It is sitting in a prominent place in our home. But more than that, one of the highlights of my life is being a father to you and Ryan and a husband to Shirley. Everything else that's happened in my life, everything else of significance means nothing compared to our love for the Lord and what you and Ryan and Shirley have contributed to me. So, it's mutual.
Danae Dobson: Well, my early bonding with you goes back as far as I can remember. I was thinking about how one of my favorite memories, hands down, with you is going on bike rides, first in the little seat on the back of your bike and then when I was older, my own bicycle. That in itself is a very happy memory for me because it was on my birthday. You wheeled out my own bike and it had that '70s banana seat with the big pink and yellow flowers on it. It had a little white Wicker basket with big plastic flowers. I thought that was so cool. I mean you just made my sixth birthday a very happy and significant occasion.
Dr. Dobson: We had a very close relationship, didn't we? From your earliest childhood, I just enjoyed. I made you laugh. We had so much fun together. Those Saturday bike rides where you rode behind me, I think you were three years of age, maybe four when we began doing that. I have great memories of it as well.
Danae Dobson: Yeah, that was special. Another series of sentimental memories for me is the time that we used to spend in the car in the mornings when you would drive me to school. I remember you had a game that you used to play with me called Pilot To Copilot. You would pretend like we were about to take off in a plane and the inside of our car was the cockpit. You gave me instructions like I was the copilot. The gear shift became the flight control and you would instruct me to hit the little buttons and switches that operated the various systems. You would pretend like our car was headed down the runway to take off and you'd make the sound effects like ... I thought that was so much fun.
Dr. Dobson: It was a little Volkswagen, as you recall. Isn't it interesting that that sticks out in your mind after all these years? You remember a silly little game, a simple game that we played with each other.
Danae Dobson: I know. Those are the things that are so fun and you look back on and you just have to smile because they just touched your heart so much, even back then. And then there were the teaching moments. I recall one morning on the way to school, you taught me North, South, East, and West. You said the sun rises in the east. I remember turning around in the car and seeing the sun shining in our rear window and from that moment on, I knew the direction of east.
Dr. Dobson: You never know, as a parent, what's sticking, what your child is hearing and learning. But I had forgotten that conversation, but that's still in your mind, isn't it?
Danae Dobson: It is. Yeah. We also listened to music on the way to school, as you'll recall. In those days, it was 8-track tapes and you had the Beatles Abbey Road. I loved the songs, Octopus Garden, and Here Comes The Sun. I still do. In fact, this year, as you'll recall, just a couple months ago, when we were together in the car just you and me, I downloaded Here Comes The Sun on my Bluetooth and we turned it up loud and experienced it all over again and just enjoyed it.
Dr. Dobson: Danae, that was really something meaningful to me. It was only a couple of months ago and you brought a copy and we were able to listen to that music. It was nighttime and we were driving around. We went all the way around where we were going two or three times while we listened to that music. It's going to thrill a lot of our listeners that Beatles music was what I shared with you, but those were the days.
Danae Dobson: That was a clean song. The Beatles had a number of songs that were clean, Octopus Garden, Here Comes The Sun. Those are safe for kids. What a lot of people don't know is the very first Woof story about a dog that I wrote at age 12, grew out of my relationship with you, Dad, and our morning carpools on the way the school.
Dr. Dobson: Describe that. I think people would be interested in it.
Danae Dobson: Well, you invented this character of a little dog named Woof. You used to come up with different characters that you would tell us stories about, but that was our favorite. When I was a little older, we had a carpool with about five or six kids who would ride with us to school in the mornings. They all got into these Woof stories. You would tell us one adventure after another. I think you got a little tired of telling Woof stories at one point.
Dr. Dobson: Well, let me share that because I was under a lot of pressure to come up a different narrative every morning. The kids loved it. They all demanded it. So I did get tired of it. It went on and on and on. I decided that it was time for Woof to die. Looking back on it, that was not a real smart thing to do.
Danae Dobson: No, it was not.
Dr. Dobson: Woof got run over and you kids were all crying. I couldn't believe it. I didn't mean to do that to you. We got to the school and you all piled out of the car and went on to school. Every one of you were in tears. When I came that night to pick you up, you all got in the car and you were all talking at once. You said, "You're going to bring Woof back. You can't let him die." So I had to carry on with the story.
You went on to tell your own story about Woof in a book. You were an early writer. You were really good with words. You wrote this when you were 12 years old. It was published by Word Publishers. It sold 40,000 copies. That was the beginning of your writing career, wasn't it?
Danae Dobson: It really was. When I look back on my childhood years, that stands out as one of my favorite gifts that the Lord gave to me, was the opportunity to have published a book at age 12. It's still very significant to me.
Dr. Dobson: Well, you've now written 24 books, I think.
Danae Dobson: 24 books, yes.
Dr. Dobson: Some of them for children, some of them for teenagers. People still tell me on the street, "I grew up reading Woof. I love that book."
Danae Dobson: Well, when I go on speaking engagements, that's the book that I hear about more than any other from people. They come up to me and tell me that their kids love that book or they loved that book when they were younger, because it's been around for so long. So that really warms my heart.
Dr. Dobson: Tell me what about our relationship was the most meaningful to you. Because it started very, very early and I'd like to know your perspective on it.
Danae Dobson: Well, I would say that one of the things that I would commend you for is placing spiritual emphasis in our family, for instance, not just attending church, but being involved, going to events there, attending Sunday school, developing friendships at church. I was very active in youth group and that was a godsend for me at that time in my life. I was thinking about how one of my girlfriends said a while back that ... She has a teen daughter and she and her husband, the mother and father, go to church, but their daughter doesn't want to go and they don't make her.
I think that's a mistake because you don't know what God might do in that child's life at church, but you have to get them there. You've got to get to the starting point first in order for the Lord to be able to do a beautiful work in their life. That was important in our family. Church was not an option with you and Mom. I mean we went. When the doors were open, we were there.
Dr. Dobson: Yeah. I would recommend that parents make this a necessity. "We are going to church. That's who we are. We serve God. We love God and we want to learn about Him. So that is going to happen, so just go with the flow." A memory I have of you, Danae, I'm not sure you're real proud of this. But when you were 12 years of age, you had developed spiritually quite a bit and you came to me and said, "Dad, I want to be baptized." I said, "Okay." So I went to the pastor and the pastor said, "No, we don't allow 12-year-olds to be baptized. They're going to have to know more about what it means to be baptized."
Dr. Dobson: Your mom and I also worked in the days they had to make sure you did understand what baptism meant. You had a clear understanding of it. We went to the church and the pastor who had allowed you to be baptized at 12, brought you into the water and just before he baptized you, he said, "Before we do, Danae, tell us what baptism means to you." And you said, "I don't know."
Danae Dobson: I froze. There were a lot of people out there.
Dr. Dobson: Believe me, I know it. Everybody giggled.
Danae Dobson: Yeah, I was at that stage in life where it didn't take much to make me freeze. So that's what that was all about. But I really liked how you and Mom emphasized spiritual training in everyday occurrences. It was because of your teaching that I learned to ... For instance, it's not okay. It is a big deal to hear God's name used in vain on TV or in conversation, and the importance of tithing a percentage of my money. In our family, that was 10%. So when I was five years of age, you had three little jars. They may have been baby food jars. They were empty. You had put masking tape on the top of the lids, and you wrote three words on those three jars, God, save, and spend.
So, each of those lids had those words where I could see them. They were in my bedroom. I kept those jars for several years. In fact, I think I might still have them. So that was very significant spiritual training for me. In our family, you and Mom would just bring the Lord up in conversation. It was almost as common as saying, "Pass the salt." As early as I could remember, to this day when you and Mom would see a gorgeous animal or a beautiful, colorful fish, you would make comments like, "Look at God's design. Look at those colors. Can't you just imagine the hand of God tracing the markings around that Tiger's face?" That's always on my mind too now when I see a beautiful or unique creature, because you put it there.
Dr. Dobson: Well, we were attempting to follow the scriptural prescription that is written in Deuteronomy six, verse four. I have it in front of me because I hoped it would come up today. This is what we were trying to do. And it begins with these words, "These commandments that I give to you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home or when you go for a walk along the road, when you lie down, or when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your forehead. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates." It can't be said more strongly than that when he's describing throughout your day that we are to be mindful of this responsibility, to give the history of the Jewish people to children so it won't be forgotten.
He's talking about the escape from Egypt and how the Lord led them through the wilderness for 40 years and now he's brought them to the promised land. The Lord did not want that to be forgotten. He wanted it to be impressed upon children's lives so that they can live according to the commandments. That relates to us as well. It's what I call job one as parents. It outranks every other objective in life. Don't let your kids grow up not knowing what God has done for us, who He is, and what His commandments are to us. Make sure your children know who Jesus is. That's the message to us as parents.
Danae Dobson: Yes. That's a wonderful scripture about the importance of having passion for teaching your children about the Lord. I'd just like to remind moms and dads that kids are sponges. I mean they are watching and listening to your reactions, your comments. They will often adopt those as their own. I know it's a lot of pressure and you can't help but fail at times, but just to have that awareness that your kids are looking at you as an example for how they should think and act and react. They take their cues from you.
Dad, I was remembering when we were riding in the car near our home, and you shared this story in your film series. But Ryan was about five years of age at the time. We passed by a movie theater that had a rated X movie title on the marquee. So I asked you, "Daddy, that's a dirty movie, isn't it?" "Yes, Danae, that's a dirty, bad movie and God doesn't want us to watch those kind of movies." Well, Ryan was taking all of this in in the backseat, but he made no comment. But he went away and he thought about it because later that night at bedtime, we were kneeling beside his bed to pray. He started with, "Dear Jesus, help me not to see any dirty movies where everybody's spitting on each other."
Dr. Dobson: That was his understanding of what a dirty movie was. I think he was only two years of age, maybe close to three.
Danae Dobson: He may have been younger, but I mean that was the worst thing that he could come up with in his little mind. But yeah, I would encourage parents to do what you and Mom did, bringing the Lord into everyday conversation, looking for windows of opportunity to compliment Him, to talk about who He is, what's important to Him, what He expects of us. I was on a hike recently with my niece and nephew, Lincoln and Lucy, and something came up in the conversation. I had a golden opportunity to explain to them why we don't say, "Oh my God," that the Lord's name is reverent and holy. Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.
Dr. Dobson: Danae, you made a wonderful point there. Children are sponges. They hear and see everything. Not all of it goes into a memory bank that they will be able to recall, but they're influenced by it, and they carry that. If you want them to love God and revere Him, you have to be intentional about doing that. We have a very good friend that he and his daughter were sitting watching a television show one time. It did have some dirty words in it and also had some references to God in a disrespectful way. They were enjoying the movie, but at a point, he got up and he just said, "Sweetheart, I just can't let this go on. We cannot put this into our eyes and our minds. I'm gonna have to turn this off. We're going to change the channel."
His little girl, who I think was about six at the time said, "I wondered when you were going to do that, Dad." She understood the issue, even if he was reluctant to implement it. We have to take a stand for what we believe, because that is picked up and magnified and goes into a memory bank. Whether they can recall it or not, it's there. And we dare not lose those opportunities.
Danae Dobson: Right? Sometimes they can just be a moment in time where you can share something. One of my friends said that when they hear a curse word in a movie, the mother will just say, "We don't talk that way." So it's just a simple statement that's making the point that we're set apart. We're different as Christians. We don't talk like the rest of the world.
Dr. Dobson: Well, Danae, we're out of time. I've loved talking to you today. I'm especially thankful for the fact that you and Ryan and Laura and our grandkids love the Lord. That is the most important thing in my life. You've helped us get that said today.
Danae Dobson: Thank you. I'd like to say happy Father's Day to you and all the dads listening: We appreciate you.
Dr. Dobson: Well, thank you, and Lord's blessings to you, Danae. Thanks for being with us.
Danae Dobson: Thank you.
Announcer: This has been a presentation of the Dr. James Dobson Family Institute.