Summertime gets hot around these parts. Like fry an egg on the sidewalk kind of hot. With that kind of heat, some things are neglected – like yard work.
At one point, we had a landscaping service to take care of the yard. Each month when I would write that check, I would just shake my head and think,” We have five children who need to learn to work. Why are we paying somebody to take care of the yard?”
We finally decided to cancel the landscaping service with a plan to pay one of our sons to mow the lawn so that he could start earning (and saving) a little money. He was excited about that, but the bushes and the weeds were sorely neglected when the heat of the summer settled in…until this past weekend.
With the monsoon rains has come a “cool down.” With the mercury in the high 90’s instead of the 110’s, we thought it was a good time to get outside and attempt the yard. Greg and I spent the entire day outside on Friday trimming the bushes in the front yard and pulling weeds. After five and a half hours of work, however, we had not even made a dent in the weeds in the front yard, and the backyard was left untouched.
We then came up with the perfect solution…five able-bodied children.
We dragged those sleepy kids out of bed early on Saturday morning and headed outside to a chorus of this music:
“I’m so tired.”
“How long will this take?”
“Why am I doing all the work myself?”
“Are we done yet?”
“These weeds are too hard to pull.”
“I’m SO HOT!!!”
“DID I TELL YOU THAT I AM HOT?!?”
“There are BEES! I’m not getting near those bushes. If I get stung, I am blaming it all on you, Mom.”
“I’m getting mosquito bites out here. Will I die of West Nile?”
You get the idea…and no, I did not make up that last one.
It was a morning of family fun…if that is what you call fun. We were hot and sweaty. Some of our hands were blistered. Thorny bushes got the best of us at times, and Greg and I vowed to eventually get rid of those awful things. There was a non-stop chorus of complaining and whining. They were NOT happy about helping…but they did it anyway.
I assure you that it was not a joyful experience for anyone involved. But let’s be honest here – work is not always joyful. It is often hard and unpleasant. In spite of that, and perhaps because of it, I feel like these kids need to get their hands dirty and learn what it means to really work hard…in the hot summer sun…when they are uncomfortable and tired…when they don’t want to do it…even if they complain incessantly about how mean their parents are for making them do this when “everybody else” is still sleeping or watching TV.
Yes, they need experiences like these.
They need to learn that hard work is part of life, and that thinking otherwise is delusional. They need to learn that it takes work to make a household, business, education, or career run smoothly. They need to learn that they are not entitled to whatever they want without working for it first, and that sometimes achieving your goals requires some not-so-pleasant hard work.
Learning those lessons is not fun, and teaching them…well, it’s not a walk in the park either. We all know that it is easier to do the work yourself than it is to involve children who don’t want help. However, I have found that I usually can’t have my cake and eat it too. I can either have them helping while being upset about it, but helping nonetheless – or I can have them not helping at all. I cannot, however, force them to be happy about working.
We are trying to teach our kids to keep their discomfort to themselves, but that may be a long time in coming – especially for those who are the most vocal. I’m not giving up on that teaching, and I do still dream about happy little workers. But, for now, if unhappy workers are all that I get, at least they are working…and there is always value in that.
The important thing to remember when teaching your children the value of work is to stay the course, even when they dig in their heels. You may have to put up with a measure (perhaps a large measure) of complaining when chore time comes around. But if they are working, even while loudly protesting about it, I would call that a success. The skills and values they learn in the process will bless their lives again and again.
So, for the love of all that is good in this world, and for the future of those kids that you love, put those little ones to work! It will be worth it someday…I promise.