By: Tanya Ward Goodman
My daughter asked “Why did you want to have children? Just to boss them around and make them do things for you?” She stomped her foot. “That’s not right.”
It is right. It’s not the only reason I had children, but I think, as a parent, I am well within my rights to ask that my children do things for me. I have this crazy idea that by asking them to do things for me, I am actually helping them to learn to do things for themselves. They may not see it that way today or tomorrow or next year, but some day, when they live in apartments or houses that are not filled to the brim with crusty cereal bowls and dirty socks, they will thank me. And I will humbly accept their thanks.
Recently, I let our gardener go. There were many reasons, among them the sound of the leaf blower, the silliness of continuing to mow a lawn that is basically dirt, and the fact that I have a nine-year-old boy to take my full trash cans down to the curb and bring them back up when they are empty.
It turns out my kids are good at raking leaves and pulling weeds. What’s more, they kind of like to do it. Both of them are learning the difference between the bad grass and the good grass. They are happy to channel what (truthfully) is sometimes extremely destructive energy into uprooting crabgrass.
It is hard work to help our kids understand hard work, but it is necessary work. I want to make sure that my son and daughter will both grow into adulthood knowing how to cook a good meal, wash their own clothes, keep their own houses. I want them to be able to manage their bank accounts and have the patience and energy to stick with a project until the end.
I know how hard a challenge I am setting before them. I know how hard it is to stay focused on a task. I understand the difficulty of finishing one thing before beginning another. My own projects pile up and languish in various stages of completion. I think that I try to teach my children about hard work because I am also always teaching myself. I push them to finish math assignments and spelling sheets, nudge them to return their pajamas to the pajama drawer and all the while, I am nudging myself to finish my book, work on my stories, write, write, write.
More and more I find myself on the same little path as my children. We are, together and separately, finding our way.