Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Choredom: Trust Me, It's a Good Thing

Check out Captain Long Legs:
He does not get those stilts from me. I'll spare you the photos, but if you need a visual, think tree-trunkish.

That kid is one of the top reasons why blogging has taken a serious backseat this summer.  I'm either feeding him (major budget breaker), shopping for bigger shoes and longer britches for his body that won't. stop. growing., or following him around the house like a shadow, desperate to stay as close to him as possible, for as long as possible before he packs up and moves out of mi casa (hello, heartbreak in three short years).

As much as this photo of him makes me weep a thousand tears, it also makes me smile as many smiles, because I am so thankful for who Benedict is, and how he is growing up to be such a fine young man. (Not perfect, but pretty darn great.) There are no back pats with that statement - it's 100% God's grace and goodness.  I mean it.)

Because I have such an intense awareness of the passing of time, my immediate reaction to the pain is to spoil Ben.  I know, it's ridiculous! I really don't mean spoil in the material sense, but in the let's have fun, and go do stuff, and eat lots of ice cream, and forget about work sense.

Thankfully, my husband has more mature ideas than I do.  He's right there with his handy-dandy sense of reason to balance out my maternal need to suffocate our teenage son with unlimited supplies of food and hugs.

One of the hubs' ideas is to keep the chore train chugging along.

While most people are currently posting about their fabulous summer vacays (which I happen to love!), afternoons at the pool and the beach, baseball games, and outdoor theatre, my camera reel is a little lighter in the recreational department.  

C'est la farm vie!

Don't get me wrong, my boys L.O.V.E. farm life, but they don't love everything about it.  Especially roguing.  For those of you who's closest experience to farming is going to the farmer's market, roguing is just a fancy word for pulling weeds.

Last Saturday, I thought I would be Mrs. Motivated and sneak out of the house before Blaise woke up to squeeze a run in before breakfast.  My sneaking went about as far as the kitchen, where I found four tired boys sitting in sleepy silence, sliding on their work boots, waiting for dad to drag them out to the soybeans that needed to be rogued.

All my hugs and promises of pancakes upon their return couldn't wipe the pathetic look of choredom off their faces.

I hate seeing my boys unhappy.  But, you know what? Even though I hate it, I'm pretty much okay with it, and let me tell you why.

As much as we all want our kids to grow up, go to college and become instantly successful, barring some miraculous intervention, the titles of CEO or head coach are not going to be bestowed upon them post-graduation.

This means that, more than likely, they are going to have to sit as the low man on the totem pole for a while, no matter what career path they choose.  And, often with the L.M.O.T.T.P. rank, come the less than desirable tasks that no one wants to do.

Poor things. They will probably feel overqualified and underpaid while answering the call to perform such menial tasks. BUT (finger's crossed) I'm hoping they won't throw a tantrum, and will actually be able to endure the monotony...if they have any sort of interior grit whatsoever.

So, how do you get your kiddos some of that grit? Well, based on personal experience, I really believe that the best grit-builder is chores. Serious chores.  Not just clean your room chores or take out the trash chores. I'm talking about chores that take time and dedication to finish.  Mowing and trimming the lawn, cleaning out the garage - top to bottom, detailing the family car, pulling weeds, and shoveling snow.

By the way, I'm totally convinced that folding laundry and sock-matching builds better hand-eye coordination than hours sitting in front of the X-Box.  I've seen it for myself.  No video game pro can top my boys speed when it comes to a game of knuckles or snatching the last cookie from the jar.

Most nights, Steve and I don't do dishes after the evening meal.  After watching our children receive the bounty of our hard work, we retire to the living room with a glass of wine while they take their stuffed little tummies to the kitchen where they team up to return my domain to ship-shape condition before any other evening activities ensue.

Of course they moan and groan about it.  That's normal.  And then there's the towel snapping and arm wrestling which always leads to some sort of squabble, which interrupts our sipping of the grapes, which leads to one of us redirecting their focus with threats of double vegetables and no dessert for a week.

Anyway, this particular chore of KP duty is just one of the many grit-building opportunities we give to our children. They also clean bathrooms, do laundry, mow and trim the lawn, and change diapers (gasp!). I'm probably painting a work-house picture here but, honestly, chores actually make up a very small portion of our children's day, and amazingly, the time that they contribute to the economy of the home makes the time that they have to play, rest, socialize, or participate in activities even sweeter.

I know it sounds crazy, but work actually makes for happier, more confident, more grateful kids.

If you haven't already experienced choredom resistance from your kids, I assure you at some point you will.  Eventually chore charts with cute rewards will no longer be enough to entice them to keep their rooms clean.  They will pout, sulk, cry, and utter every grievance over your expectations of them....anything to wear you down and make you feel guilty for asking them to lift a precious finger to help.

If and when that happens, don't throw your hands up! Don't give up! Stay calm and stay the course. Remember, if you need a little leverage to get them to cooperate, you can always dangle the car keys, cell phone, television time, or fun with friends privileges out in front of their scowling faces. (Those are priveleges, not rights of entitlement.)

Our approach to chores isn't militaristic, it's just matter of fact.  Being a part of a family means there will always be chores, and why should mom and dad do everything? When we as parents shoulder all of the responsibilities of the home, and on top of that, shuttle our kids to every activity on the planet, we deny our children vital opportunities to gain the virtues and skills necessary to become generous individuals who are mindful of others. Virtues and skills that will also bolster their confidence so that they might assert themselves in the most challenging circumstances in order to aspire toward the dreams and goals they desire to achieve in life.

Offering our boys opportunities that have the potential to form them to become steadfast, dedicated, resilient members of society isn't solely meant to help them temporarily survive the hum-drum duties that their future careers might require of them.  They are also meant to give them the lasting and meaningful strength to rise up to, rather than shirk, those less than desirable tasks that are a necessary part of maintaining a healthy thriving community, church, and/or family.

Who will stay a little longer to clean up the trash-strewn stadium after a ball game? Who will give up a golf game to organize the fundraiser for a friend in need? Who will sacrifice social time to stand in line and serve at the soup kitchen on a Saturday morning? Who will give up an afternoon of football to shovel snow for an elderly neighbor? Who will sacrifice sleep for night time feedings and diaper changes?

I hope that my boys will.

In fact, I hope that no matter what career path they choose, or how successful they become, that they will always have the interior conviction to recognize and confront the hard things in life, the less-than-appealing duties that need to get done, and that they will tackle those duties with humility and perseverance.

But, you know what? Hope is a great virtue, but hope doesn't stand on it's own.  It needs legs.  And legs look like opportunity, and for our kids, opportunity looks like chores. Chores really could be the tool that builds a solid foundation made of hard work and meaningful experiences.  A foundation that gives solid support to the purpose that the Lord has in mind for each of our boys to fulfill.

Time to wrap this up! The boys have moseyed in from mowing and are looking forward to an afternoon at the pool.

If you're a parent who also believes in chores, but have felt alone in that area of parenting, I hope that you feel some support today! And, if you've been hesitant or afraid that chores might turn your child's life upside down (well, they will, but your kiddos will be okay, and so will you!), I hope that you feel encouraged to give it a go!


  1. There aren't many families today where older siblings learn to change diapers, sanitize crib sheets, sooth a screaming baby, etc. I think those sound too, not as hard physically, but taking care of someone else is important and humbling. Your boys do all of that as well:)

  2. Count, not sound! Thanks autocorrect...

  3. Oh, those growing teenage boys...The feeding I can handle. It's the buying of the pants that make me absolutely nuts. I'm with you on the "do all the things before they start moving out" thing. Knowing that each year for the next 4 years one of my kids will be moving out (In 4 years, I'll only have 2 kids at home!!!!) is making me hyperventilate and spoil them. (Although, the opposite is true, too. I've been muttering in my head, as I rearrange the dishes in the dishwasher yet again, "Only one more year until I won't have him throwing dishes in my dishwasher all willy nilly.) :)
    We are a Kids Do Chores! family, too. It is nothing but good for them. It's trickier when kids get to high school, especially when they are participating in school sports. While games going until 10:00 at night get them off a little easier, they aren't excused from doing chores on non-game days.
    And thanks for the new word. I had never heard of roguing.

  4. I loved everything about this post. Thank you for the encouragement. Sent it to my hubby and assured him he would enjoy this one. I have a feeling he will give a resounding thumbs up. :) And congrats on sweet little Blaise! Your family is big and beautiful and so inspiring! Thank you for sharing your heart via the world wide web.

  5. There are some days our little guy is just GRUMPY. Sour. And I tell you what, an hour of hauling manure in the barns, and suddenly - we have the grouchies all chased away by that fresh air and sunshine and SWEAT.... "Hard" labor really makes a person feel good inside and gives them a sense of accomplishment! Farm life is full of lessons.....

  6. I'm totally with you on the chore thing. We're a farm family and there's always plenty of real, grit developing chores to be done. Way to go, Mom!


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