Sunday, January 15, 2006

Working Boys

I can remember being in a group of people one time that were discussing chores for children. One father proudly proclaimed that his son, who was 10 at the time, had never had to do a chore in his life. Somehow he felt this was a good thing. It explained a lot to me about this child's character, he was demanding, rude, uncontrolled....just generally a child you'd like to introduce to the woodshed.

I have always felt it important for my boys to do chores. When we were city people, they helped clean house, fold laundry, work in the yard, paint rooms....whatever needed doing at the time. Because of this, I have also been accused of being an unfeeling parent who is depriving them of their childhood. Where does it say that you don't have to do any work until you are an adult? And the BIG question is, if they haven't done any work until will they learn to? Why would they want to? I think this explains a lot of the "I deserve it" attitude we see today.

Once we moved to the farm, the work really began. My boys learned to mow and weedeat a 1.5 acre lawn area, and to also do it for their Grandma's lawn on the other side of the driveway, another acre. They bale hay, set out drip tape, weedeat the garden, plant, weed, harvest, extract honey, (sounds fun but involves a lot of cranking since ours is the old fashioned kind), work in the greenhouse, move fences, move cattle, milk goats and cows, curry horses, and scoop poop! This covers some of what they do!

People are shocked and offended....I hear it all the time...."they don't have any fun...poor dears!".

My boys also fish and row the boat around the pond, play in the creek, hike the fields, woods and mountains, hunt turtles, get to watch the miracle of birth (after 8 years we all still love it!), ride the horses, graze in the garden, eat the bounty from the work of THEIR hands, climb trees, build forts, spend time with family, have the pleasure of knowing they helped their Grandma, develop close relationships with their brothers, and glory in God's creation (the stars and the millions of fireflies at night, the sky filled with eagles, owls, and hawks by day, the crisp fall days, the sleigh rides down the sledding hill after a snowfall).

But the most important thing of all, they know they are integral to this family. They know this farm cannot survive without them, everything they do is important. This gives them great confidence, they are willing to tackle anything (some things just give me the shakes!) They know they are loved but they also know they are so important to our success. Their hearts are willing. Even the 7 year old knows that his chores, if left undone, means something will not run correctly.

My 12 and 7 year old boys were given the chore this fall to catch up and bag leaves for the garden beds. I pictured two boys and a couple of rakes....but this is what I found. They took precautions to protect eyes and lungs, their idea not mine. I just went to investigate the noise.

You can see the bags already filled behind them.

My 7 year old could barely stand up under the weight. It was hard for both but they took turns.

Cooperation! Working together! Relying on each other! What great lessons!

I was so pleased with what I found. My 12 year old explained that by using the blower in reverse it not only picked up the leaves it also mulched them.... I had no clue it would do this.

Now, don't let me leave you with the impression that they jump for joy each time they do chores. There are occasional grumbles, especially when the weather is awful or they have to deal with a stinky buck. But their hearts are willing. Occasionally someone forgets something and has to be reminded, sometimes more than once. Then there are the odd experiences we have had.

When my youngest was 3, I gave him the job of collecting eggs and feeding cats for his evening chores. He did a very good job. We usually had a dozen or more eggs each evening (I know my chickens are weird, we hardly ever get eggs in the morning!). Sometimes his little hands were to quick to squeeze and he would crack one. One time he forgot to take the egg basket so he filled his pockets with eggs (shirt, pants, coat) and tripped and fell down on the way to the that seems pretty funny but I picked egg shell out of clothing for days! Each time he learned a lesson and did a better job.

Then came the evening when he returned home with an empty basket and proudly called, "No eggs today!" Red flags went flying...."Elijah, why are there no eggs today?" "Cause I broke one!"

"Elijah...why did you break one?" "Cause I wanted to see what was inside!" "Ok"...taking a deep breath "What happened to the rest of the eggs?" "I broke them too." "How many?" "10 of them!" "WHY!!!!" He looked at me so perplexed that I didn't get it....his answer? "Cause I wanted to see if they was all the same!" Needless to say that chore was transferred back to an older sibling for a period of time. He learned a hard lesson that day.

Chores help a child to grow, to learn lessons that they might not be able to learn any other way.

They learn that work brings its rewards...sometimes it is monetary but there is something so much better. There is nothing like the feeling of working hard all day and then as the sun is going down, standing back and surveying what you have accomplished, a job well done. It is a wonderful feeling! It brings a joy and sense of accomplishment that money can never deliver!

There is a saying I read recently that sort of stuck with me. All people need to learn this, and it doesn't mean that your neighbors or Christian brothers and sisters should never lend a helping hand. But I think chores help a child to understand that, although people will be there to help you from time to time, "The only helping hand you should ever count on consistently is at the end of your own sleeve!"


  1. Excellent post! I grew up working hard on a ranch and although there were days we all complained, it produced hard working adults. It's fun to see the next generation learning to work also. :>)
    I love your quote too! Might have to steal that one.

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  3. I wish I could remember the name of the social work book that talked about basic principles to reduce juvenile deliquincy. I will have to find it. It talks of having meaning and purpose in children's lives. We also regularly involved kids in equistrian therapy. Read farm work to improve their behavior. Guess what they were too tired to create mischief. You are right on target. Many times our work is fun and entertaining. Keep up the good work.

  4. I always enjoy your posts! Iam suburban bound and your website lets me peek into the country!

  5. Everything we do, even chores, give us such a sense of purpose...what could make our children feel more valuable than knowing that they are loved and appreciated. Not just because they work hard, but because they know that they are an integral part of a family. What a sense of satisfaction you all must have working together to accomplish a common goal.

  6. Barb, Thanks for the encouragement!

    Prairiemomma, It is a wonderful feeling, tired, sweaty, sometimes grumpy, but somehow always satisfying :)

    MM, Thanks!

  7. We, too, are looking at a home on a couple acres so the boys can have some real work to do. Dishes and laundry just don't cut it! I can't wait. I also want them to have a sort of workshop and learn some carpentry and perhaps work on furniture for their future homes....

    Lyn at Whimsical Dreams


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