I wonder if we had the same moment of realization this week. The kids got out of school on Wednesday, and we went to Maverick to celebrate by getting F’Reals. Summer Break officially started on Thursday, and Liv and Ike had wildly different ideas of how to spend that first day than Rick and I did. They wanted to know, were we going to go to the pond to paddle board? To Roaring Springs? Could they invite friends over first thing in the morning before anyone ate breakfast or showered or got dressed and definitely before any messes were cleaned up?
I felt a little tyrannical, but I shattered their dreams with a little pleasure. I had spent the last nine months living at least three hours of every day in my car. Driving the kids to schools in another district was part of my daily routine--basically a part-time job. Every day, I’d get a few things done, but could never get TOO involved in anything because of the schedule I had to keep.
And now, with the kids home, not only did I realize that I’d be reclaiming those three hours, but that I’d have four extra hands to clean the house! So, when Olivia and Isaac came to us with bright, hopeful eyes on that first day of their freedom from school, we lovingly looked at them laughed a little bit at their naiveté and said, “H-E- double hockey sticks NO!” And then laughed some more.
We gave each child a looooong list of chores. Everything from practicing piano to doing a lesson on Khan Academy to scrubbing toilets “like this”. They started out a little grumpy, but I have to say that they were champs about it within just a few minutes. They’re hard workers. We’ve always tried to give them plenty of opportunities to learn skills that will help them as adults, and this first day of summer was the quintessential life-skills day.
By three o’clock, they were tired, but had completed most of the things on the list. I decided to show a little mercy and allowed them to hang out with friends. By the time they fell into bed that night, their flushed faces and limp bodies showed that they had had a long day, full of hard work and hard play and lots of joy. There’s something about working hard that makes our lives that much more enjoyable. And teaching our children that is one of the best things we can give them.
H. David Burton said:
Fewer and fewer parents ask their children to do chores around the house because they think they are already overwhelmed by social and academic pressures. But children devoid of responsibilities risk never learning that every individual can be of service and that life has meaning beyond their own happiness.
And from J. Richard Clarke:
We are cocreators with God. He gave us the capacity to do the work he left undone, to harness the energy, mine the ore, transform the treasures of the earth for our good. But most important, the Lord knew that from the crucible of work emerges the hard core of character.
We have a moral obligation to exercise our personal capabilities of mind, muscle, and spirit in a way that will return to the Lord, our families, and our society the fruits of our best efforts. To do less is to live our lives unfulfilled. It is to deny ourselves and those dependent upon us opportunity and advantage. We work to earn a living, it is true; but as we toil, let us also remember that we are building a life. Our work determines what that life will be.
Work is honorable. It is good therapy for most problems. It is the antidote for worry. It is the equalizer for deficiency of native endowment. Work makes it possible for the average to approach genius. What we may lack in aptitude, we can make up for in performance.
Hard works shapes us. It makes us learn and stretch and grumble and moan and ache and love and get blisters and cry and rejoice and laugh. And when we work hard with others, it helps us get to know people in a way we’d never know them if we hadn’t just spent the last three hours cramming raw, frozen turkey chunks in to small tin cans.
Yes, our summer will be filled with loads of character-building hard work. And lots of smiles too.