I was driving home today, and it suddenly crossed my mind that women no longer wear Christmas corsages. I am 57 years old and I remember a time when nearly every woman I knew wore them, although I must admit I don’t remember when they stopped. And, well, you know how strange the brain is, so don’t ask me how I made the leap from corsages to mowing the grass, but I did.
I was reminded that, as a child, it was not unusual to have the responsibility of mowing the grass at, let’s say, age 13. Now I don’t want to hear a lot of nonsense talk about the dangers of a mowing machine. Very, very few children dismembered themselves while mowing the grass. Chances are that you have decided that it’s easier to pay someone else to do this job rather then fight to get your children up and moving, the same being true for cleaning windows, cleaning cars, ironing and just about everything else you can think of. It certainly is easier to pay someone else to do these tasks. There is however a larger picture to consider.
Home is the first place we learn to organize, cook, clean ourselves and our environment, share and help. Our children often are reduced to less than the status of a boarder. Sometimes children are expected to clean their own rooms and that is all. Some folks don’t even push for that much. They simply tell the child to close the door so others do not have to see the filth they choose to live in.
Do you only cook for yourself? Do you only wash your own clothes? If I am only responsible for my own room than I am not a full member of the house. Should I be exempted from washing dishes because I have homework? What nonsense.
When I was an early teenager, my mother asked me what I was prepared to give to our family unasked. In other words, she wanted to know what I was prepared to do, or give to the family, freely, without resentment or reservation, and without holding out my hand for monetary reward. She then listed the many things she did every day for the family after coming home from a full day of working somewhere else. I was shocked. I had never thought about it that way. When I said I was tired, she said she was too! She asked how I might feel if she didn’t shop for groceries because she was tired. What would life be like if she didn’t remember to buy the toilet paper because she wanted to come home and watch her television program instead?
You do get it don’t you folks? Then we have the nerve to say our children are self-centered. We make them that way by withholding from them opportunities to think of, and do for the whole (family). If we wish to grow children who are giving, we must provide them with opportunities to practice giving. If we wish to have responsible children, we must provide them with opportunities to practice responsibility. If they pick up litter at home, and in the yard and even in the road near where they live, they will be less likely to litter as they grow.
Instead we are teaching them that litter is someone else’s responsibility. We allow them to step over whatever litters our floors and we treat them as if they are above bending down to pick up trash because “I didn’t drop it”. It may be easier in the short term to pay someone, but the opportunity that is lost as a result, is too great a price to pay. I am speaking about the opportunities we have until they leave home, which are meant to be the learning years for them and the teaching years for us.
Many adults look back at their childhood as a period in time when they were saddled with far too much responsibility, and they seek to spare their children. Well folks, as I see it, if our children are not practicing it now, they cannot master it later.
Time for change in 2012.