All Play and No Work

It was the winter of 1986 when Benny and I got into the van after a sonogram. Back then they were only done when a problem was suspected. The problem had been found. My doctor told me the only thing I could do to prevent what he thought was a pending miscarriage was complete red rest. If I didn’t lose the baby in a week he would see me again.

I closed the van door and cried. How in the world was I going to stay in bed for the next week?!? I had four children ranging from 18 months to not quite eight years. My mother and sister lived nearby but had full time jobs. I knew Benny would be helpful but he had to work. All I knew was I needed to do my part to protect my unborn baby — but I was scared.

Who would occupy Joey who was getting into everything? Oh, and potty training with Jesse would have to be delayed…again! Our home schooling schedule would certainly have to change since the only time a bed-trapped teacher could work with her first and third graders was when little brothers were napping. And what about all the other household work of a large family? I realized pretty quickly that a week of Benny trying to keep up with towels and underwear wasn’t so bad.

When we got home we sat Josh and Jaime down to talk.  At nearly 8 and 6 1/2 we knew they would want to chip in. They were excited about mommy having another baby and a week really wasn’t that long. Gratefully, I had been working with them to learn the discipline of daily and weekly chores for a couple of years. But this was a tall order for my young kids.

The hoped-for week of bed rest turned into five long weeks. Friends brought meals twice a week and Benny rolled up his sleeves to help each evening. But the majority of the work fell onto Josh and Jaime to prevent Benny from having to do it all. They decided Jesse really didn’t need to wait until he was three to be potty trained and Jaime was a second mommy to Joey anyway. They made pbnj’s and boxed mac and cheese and carted all their homeschool books to my bedroom each afternoon after they put their brothers down for a nap. They vacuumed; made beds; brought laundry to my bed to be folded; straightened bathrooms; took phone messages (no cell phones back then and the phone was tied to the kitchen wall with a cord!); rejoiced over little-brother-potty successes; loaded and unloaded the dishwasher using a chair to climb up on counters to reach cabinets; and made sure Mommy had food and drinks throughout the day.

The day I finally came home with a sono picture of their baby brother or sister alive and well was a special one for Benny and me. Not only had God spared our baby’s life, but we were also able to thank Josh and Jaime for their hard work and sacrifice. That fall Janelle Marie was born to a very excited older brother and sister.

And Jesse was indeed potty trained.

Teaching kids to work in the home has many benefits. You may never need your school age kids to take care of you because you’re bed ridden. And it may take years before you see the fruit of your training. The honest fact is this: teaching kids to serve and work in the home is hard work for Mom! It’s much easier to make beds and clean bathrooms yourself. And dealing with their attitudes when they don’t want to help makes doing it yourself easier. Moms who train their children to serve around the house double the work for awhile. We do our work — and oversee theirs.

But believe me, the longterm fruit is worth it. All but one of my kids went through the messy teen years when I wondered if they forgot everything they were taught about neatness and I often elected to just keep their doors closed. At times I had to also remove junk from the passenger side of their vehicle to make enough room to ride with them. But I watched them endure from work being fun because they got to spray windex on the sliding glass door to work being rewarding because neighbors noticed them mowing our yard and asked to pay them to mow theirs. They worked through conflicts and bitterness when it their Saturday morning chore list was longer than their siblings. They sang Disney songs while they cleaned up after dinner — and sometimes still do. They celebrated when their older brother’s business became profitable enough to fulfill his dream of hiring family members (and others). And now they’re working together side by side at Redeemer Church to take the gospel to a new area in Central Florida. (More on that from Joey tomorrow…and yes, it’s hard work.)

Moms, teach your children to work. To pick up their toys rather than developing an entitlement attitude that expects others to clean up after them. To help set the table, knowing the silverware will be cockeyed. To make their bed even though you’ll be tempted to go back and straighten it later. And to rake leaves and pull weeds and mow grass and “wash” windows — and then congratulate them for a job well done despite the imperfections.

Last night my dining room table had several people sitting around it, including four in our family. It started with taking their plates to the kitchen when they were too short to reach the sink. Now they’re brainstorming about company finances and praying through how to grow ProVisionIT to provide provision for more families in the future.

Jesse was right; all play and no work isn’t a good road to the future for your kids.

And the future will be here before you know it.

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2 thoughts on “All Play and No Work

  1. Child labor in the name of training…brilliant!! 😉 Seriously, very encouraging! Just last night I was wondering if my separation and divorce caused my oldest to grow up way too fast with household chores/responsibilities! But I guess whether its a good reason (new baby) or not so good (divorce) that brings about a servant need, lifestyle and training season, it’s still a lesson worth living and teaching our kids!

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