One comment in particular from an entirely different thread I thought I would pick up in a whole post. Otherwise today would just be Another weekend in review (like the fact that Gladys got into my very precious tin of Nivea cream and rubbed it all over her face and through her hair, using the Entire tin. She smells so pretty. And that we discovered a bat in the kitchen, the second one in the church in two weeks, and carefully deposited him outside, half the congregation making frequent trips outside over the course of the morning to see how he was getting on. And that we were reminded that our wedding anniversary is this week, so we unearthed and watched out wedding video again which was just as wonderful as when I saw it 7 years ago.)
Anyway, I'm grateful to this commenter's invitation to express more of an opinion, just want the internet needs.
“But meanwhile I'm glorying in the satisfaction of having so many useful and obedient children. “
I usually love reading your blog, Anne, but I was struck by the above words. I just hope your children have time to be, well, children.
This was a very helpful thought because I have been worried, of late, that All We Do Is Play. Its like a carnival circus around here most of the time, as far as I can make out. Of course, we haven't officially started school yet, but even then, as hard as I try to make us all serious, Everything seems to turn into a game. This is unfortunate for me, as their mother because I've always really disliked playing games of any kind. I'm getting over it, slowly. Particularly, I've discovered that cleaning should always be in a race against each other. We each get a room, whoever finishes first wins, except that I always have two or three rooms and so its Not Fair, heh, and I never win. Which is why I hate playing games.
The commenter goes on.
I think, when I was growing up, my chores were age appropriate. I did not start doing laundry until I was in high school, and I certainly did not feed everyone breakfast, empty the dishwasher, or clean the kitty box at such a young age. I just wonder if you truly know how odd it is to see written 'useful' and 'obedient' used when describing one's children. It's not the first words I would want to use to describe my children, or how I think of them. However, I may be interpreting your words in the wrong way. But I might use those ajdectives to describe my housekeeper (if I had one), but I'm not so sure I'd use them when it comes to my children.
My thought on this matter is guided by three different sources.
First, my parents would never have bought into this idea. I grew up with the understanding that I had been born to do dishes. That was the purpose of my existence. Naturally all this dishwashing developed into being able to cook really very well by the time I was in high school and college. I can't tell you how many people have appreciated this gift and skill over the years, not least of all my husband and children.
Second, as I've said before, Matt and I read very early on Standing on the Promises by Doug Wilson which has revolutionized our home life. Basic principles that we have incorporated from this book include 'delayed obedience is disobedience' and that really we have One main household rule. That rule is 'Honor and obey your Momma!'. If this wasn't firmly fixed in place, we would not be able to homeschool and I would be tired all the time. Respectful obedient children are happy children. They don't have to organize your life and their days and so they have time to play and think and learn without worrying about who is in charge and what should happen next. This is really the opposite of what we learned in seminary (why there was any parenting advice in an Episcopal Seminary, I don't remember). There we learned that 'the child's word to you is no'. HAHAHAHA. Au contraire. The child's word to me is 'Yes Momma, Right away Momma'.
And third, on the matter of work and school, we have been guided by a wonderful website called Trivium Pursuits. Here is what they say about the work of the child. I've bolded my favorite bits, but the whole long quote is really critical to the way we organize our house.
Develop in your child a love for work and service. From the time a child is able to walk and talk he should be given regular chores to perform. We do not mean simply feeding the dog and making his bed. A five year old is quite capable of putting the dishes away and folding the laundry. A ten year old can prepare simple meals from start to finish. Children of all ages can clean and straighten the house. The mother should not be picking up things from off of the floor. Your goal should be that by the time a child is in his teens, he is able to take over the work of the household, from cooking to cleaning to caring for his younger brothers and sisters. This not only teaches them to appreciate work while removing some of the burden from the parents, but it is good training for when they have their own households.Do not do for your child what he can do for himself. We need to reject all of this popular "self-esteem" stuff. The world’s problems can be summarized in one simple expression: too much self-esteem. Too many people think they are too good for what they get in life. They think they deserve better. And among the things which foster such notions is parents fawning over their little children. For the first year of his life, you pretty much need to do everything for him. But after that, the situation should begin to change rapidly. He can learn to do many things for himself in the next couple of years. He can clean up his own messes. An important corollary to this is: Do not do for yourself what your child can do for you. Your child needs to esteem himself lower than others, beginning with his parents. He can gather the clothes for laundry, and he can fold the laundry. Then he can do the laundry. He can set the table and wash the dishes. Then he can help fix the meals. He can vacuum the floor and dust the furniture. Then he can wash the windows. If you do all of this for him, then he will get a notion of self-esteem: "I am so important everyone ought to do things for me." But if he learns to do it for himself, then he will get a notion of self-confidence: "I can do it myself." And if he learns to do it for you, then he will get a notion of self-usefulness: "I can be helpful and I am needed around here."
Wonderfully, this understanding of the child is very like that articulated by Maria Montessori and Sophia Cavaletti. In Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, the work of the child and the work of the hands is the center of atrium life. The children don't 'play' with the beautiful materials, they work with them. The work is the critical element in internalizing the gospel. Likewise in the home. We were created by God to work and that is where we will find personal satisfaction, where we best glorify God, and are best made into the image and likeness of his Son.
And finally, the commenter writes
I'm just wondering if Father Matt might help out with some of those chores, or maybe he does???
I've said this many times on this blog, but Matt bears an incredible burden of household work. He does half the cooking, all the vacuuming, all the laundry, and up to this point, all the kitty litter. He takes the garbage out (a HUGE job) and keeps the household finances, as well as pastoring a growing church in the midst of a storm. My personal goal is to have him do as little around the house as possible which I fail at every day. That is why the two oldest are learning to do some of his work, as well as mine. At this age, amazingly, they love it. Every morning there is a fight over who gets to do the kitty litter and who gets to do the dishwasher. I know this attitude will not always persist, but I'm enjoying it for now, and looking forward to the day when they can manage this house as well, or better, than we their parents do.