Even though this blog post will go live on a Monday morning, I’m actually writing it on a Sunday afternoon. If you were to observe me and my family on this Sunday afternoon, this is what you’d see…
Jim is giving himself a haircut.
I am sitting in my office, bouncing on my ball chair, and typing on my computer (while alternately looking lost in thought).
Brett is working on her college term paper.
Colter is emptying the bulk tank of goat milk.
Emery is editing his college paper.
Fletcher is writing his college paper.
Greyden is picking and processing green beans from the garden.
Hewitt is picking and processing celery and onions from the garden.
Indigo is processing peaches from the orchard.
Jade is processing blackberries from the bramble patch.
Basically, we’re all doing work of some sort. It’s a fairly typical Sunday afternoon for us. Much of it is spent alternating between playing or doing house/garden work. The only Goat Milk Stuff work that gets done on Sundays is the mandatory stuff like feeding goats and milking. The only reason Colter is emptying the bulk tank is because by law it has to be emptied every 72 hours and sanitized. And if the end of 72 hours periodically falls on a Sunday, it still needs to be done.
But do you know what we want to be doing?
Yesterday was the Saturday of the Fourth of July weekend. It was forecasted to be the busiest travel day of the summer. And that meant a lot of extra and new visitors to our Farm. In fact, both the Farm Store and the Sweet Shop had a record amount of visitors. We were super excited about this (Thanks, Lord!), but by the end of the day we were all pretty tired.
And so this afternoon, nobody really wanted to do anything productive.
And yet here we are, all of us working.
Why is that?
Because work is important and it isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The trick is (of course) to find joy in the work you need to do. That is sometimes much easier said than done.
For Brett, Emery, and Fletcher, there isn’t a lot of joy in writing a college paper. But there is pride in a job well done and satisfaction in learning how to express ideas coherently… or just getting an A.
For Greyden, Hewitt, Indigo, and Jade, there is a lot of joy in snacking on some of the food they are processing (particularly the peaches and blackberries). There is also anticipation of eating all of that yummy food – especially the peach cobbler we’re planning for tonight’s dessert.
For Colter, there is joy in knowing that he is doing what is necessary for Goat Milk Stuff because he takes a lot of joy and pride in the success of the business.
For Jim, he hates getting covered in hair, but he loves having less of it during the summer heat.
And for me? I really enjoy being able to blog. I love my life and enjoy sharing it with others. It isn’t really a chore for me (unless I don’t have anything to say which rarely happens LOL).
But working when you don’t want to isn’t something that just magically happens. The younger children didn’t just run outside, desperately wanting to weed and harvest and process the food we grow. They required some encouragement in the guise of me telling them to stop playing around and go get the work done!
Not one of them said to me, “But what if I don’t want to?”
They know better than that.
They know that the work needs to get done whether they want to or not. They also know there is an end in sight and a reward (peach cobbler) and family time with nothing to do once they’re finished.
But that attitude didn’t just happen overnight. It’s taken years of child training (and Mommy training) to get them there.
Several years ago, we had some families staying with us for a visit. At the time, the sun was shining, but I knew that rain was coming. There were a lot of children in the house (over 20) and so I gathered all the children together and told them that I wanted them to all go outside and play for two hours before the rain started. There were a few toddlers in the group, and the older children divvied up who was in charge of whom. And they all excitedly ran outside.
Except for a six-year-old little boy.
He went to his father and whined, “But I don’t want to go outside.”
I was about to step in and pair one of my children with this child so I knew he would have fun. But before I could say anything, the father said, “OK, you don’t have to if you don’t want to.”
A small part of me was surprised at the fact that my directions were just negated. My children know very well that if they are at someone’s house, they do whatever that adult tells them unless it is something sinful or directly against one of our family rules (which fortunately has never happened). I fervently hope they would never disrespect anyone while enjoying their hospitality.
But mostly, I was surprised to see this man so quickly give in to a whining child.
Now, I have to step aside for a moment and say that I try very hard not to judge parents or their parenting skills. I make plenty of mistakes myself and parent in sub-optimal ways all the time. We are all just doing the best we can as parents. Sometimes we ace parenting and sometimes we have non-stellar moments.
I just use this story as a way to illustrate my point and not to put this father down in any way.
I think the reason this incident stands out in my mind is because the response was exactly the opposite of what I would have said or done.
I would have said, “Too bad. Go outside anyway.”
End of story.
But instead I just watched the situation unfold. The child then proceeded to whine that he wanted to play a video game. Uh oh, I thought. We don’t have video games in our house. At all. That’s a whole ‘nother blog post as to why, but suffice it to say I don’t like them and don’t like the children wasting their time on them.
The father told the child that he couldn’t play a video game and that if he didn’t want to go outside, he could stay here and listen to the adults talk.
I won’t bore you with the downward slide, but simply sum it up by saying that within 10 minutes the child was playing some sort of game on his father’s phone in my living room while all the other children were outside playing some game that involved a frisbee, a football, several tennis balls and lots of running around.
Why did I bring up this story? Because I believe it perfectly illustrates the fact that as a parent, we often need to push our children into doing what they don’t want to do.
Why? Because that’s life.
As adults, we have to do things we don’t want to do all the time. And I always remind myself that I am raising future adults. I am not raising future children. If I want my children to eventually grow up to become adults that make me proud, it starts when they’re little.
That means, at age-appropriate and skill-appropriate levels, I often require the children to do tasks they don’t want to do.
And no matter how painful, I do what I need to do – even when I don’t want to!
What do you think? Is it being a good or bad parent if you make your children do what they don’t want to do?