So lately my boys and I have been reading through Laura Ingalls Wilder's book, Farmer Boy, where she very skillfully gives a beautiful snapshot of her husband's childhood growing up on a farm. If any of you are like me, I absolutely loved her books when I was a child and read them over and over and over and over again. I was delighted to start reading them to my boys.
One of the things that has hit me very hard in reading this wonderful little book has been the intensity with which these people worked. I mean, it is inspiring. From dawn until dusk they worked, taking care of animals, milking, threshing, planting, hoeing, hauling water, making everything they owned from clothes to shelter. It really is quite amazing.
And then I think of myself running my little dishwater, cleaning up tiny messes, putting my clothes in my washer machine, and buying all of my food pre-packaged at the store...and I think, "I have absolutely NOTHING to complain about ever!" I have it so easy compared to how these people lived. I have modern medicine that saves my children when they have a bad cold. I have stores I can visit to buy clothes rather than having to sheer the sheep and weave cloth to sew my own. I have water and electricity. Wow! Then why is it that our generation (myself definitely included) complains that we work too hard? How can this be when we obviously don't? Getting dinner on the table should seem like a piece of cake!!
I have been giving this some thought and I don't know that I've come to any amazing conclusions, however, one thing I do know, is that the way in which people used to work was good and I really think we've lost a lot in our modern advances. That's not to say that we can't be thankful for them and that we haven't gained anything but I do think we've given up a lot. Families worked together because they had to. They didn't complain much and everyone just pulled their weight. Why? Because they had to in order to survive. Children knew how to work from the time they were small and they felt useful, a part of the team. Truly, we've lost a lot there.
And I've been wondering, how can I, in the midst of all the wealth that surrounds our life, teach my little boys how to work when there's so little we all have to work for anymore? I mean, they help do dishes, set the table, sort laundry and stack wood with their Dad and Grandpa, but what about hard, everyday work? Where can I find this for them because when they grow up, they'll have to work for their families and I want them to be used to working from the time they're small. Playing is great and they do a ton of that, but real, hearty work is what they need and sometimes I look around and I'm at a loss.
How do I teach hard work in this modern world? I know it's possible. And we can't just go back to living on the farm because that's just not very realistic either. But we must find a way to translate the benefit of work to our children. It's so important. I guess one thing I can do is to stop doing everything for them and let them do much more themselves. It's hard to do this because they still do need so much help with many things. And sometimes I just want the kitchen swept or the counters cleaned quickly so we can move on. But maybe I should slow down a bit and let them do it, even if it's not perfect. Maybe if I just started there we could be on our way. I'm optimistic that it can be done but it will take much more effort than previous generations where it was just built in. It will take a lot more thought but it's so, so important.
Any ideas? How do you get your children working?