As I write, my son is upstairs vacuuming under the bed. Earlier today his younger sister unloaded the dishwasher while I crafted a blog for a client. Even the wee one sifted through the flotsam that litters the floor of her bedroom — dominoes, microscopic Barbie shoes, and wrappers from treats she wasn’t supposed to take up there.
In other words, my kids are working — doing chores that once fell under my jurisdiction. Now I get to manage the process. Cue an enthusiastic choice singing, “Oh happy day!”
I’m not saying my kids exactly whistle while they work — do you think that’ll come in time? So much of what I’ve read in the Bible indicates that industry — along with humility, generosity and the wise stewardship of our resources — underwrites a joyful and abundant life in Christ. And I’m doing my part to ensure my children understand the value of work.
And let me tell you — it’s taken a lot of work.
While we’re all worried about our country’s uncertain economic future, I believe one of the greatest gifts we can hand down to our children is fostering satisfaction for a job well done. Starting with the sludge in the crevices of the kitchen floor. I don’t want my kids to ever get the idea they’re above any kind of work — because we all have to start somewhere.
In my all-time favorite book of the Bible, Proverbs, God’s word delivers plenty of tough love on the subject of work ethic and the dangers of inertia. Consider these: “The sluggard’s craving will be the death of him, because his hands refuse to work” (21:25); he loves sleep: “As a door turns on its hinges, so a sluggard turns on his bed” (26:14); he gives excuses: “The sluggard says, ‘There is a lion in the road, a fierce lion roaming the streets’” (26:13); he wastes time and energy.
Ouch. Woe to the “sluggard,” indeed. And I don’t know any other population more prone to sluggard tendencies than kids — especially teenagers, once our precious preschoolers who followed us around the house with Windex and paper towels. This is a skill most kids need to learn at home, first.
Today, many children juggle schedules as frenzied as their parents. We’re keeping them busy, nurturing their scholarly, creative, and athletic talents. And those endeavors have much to teach them about cooperation, teamwork, fitness, diligence and discipline. Still — I think kids need to wield a broom, lawnmower or dust-cloth as much as a Lacrosse Stick in order to learn self-reliance and humility. It’s not as glamorous as winning a championship — but also a necessary skill to achieve success later in life.
Those hectic schedules can often leave very little time for chores around the house, or part-time jobs. And teaching kids to work means swimming upstream — because they’re going to balk about it. But someday, their boss is also going to demand they get the job done. And our job as parents, as Proverbs 22:6 so eloquently puts it, is to, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when his is old, he will not depart from it.”
It’s a lot easier for me to wipe the counters than to teach my kids how to do it. But the fruits of those labors are unending. Did I mention my kids are working while I’m writing? Bliss!
Dear Reader, next month’s column explores keeping the faith at the office. Have you ever faced an ethical conflict at work? Write and tell me about it.
• An independent writer, Diane Meehl, contributes frequently to the AFN. She and her husband live in Ahwatukee Foothills with their brood, and enjoy worship at Mountain View Lutheran Church. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.