I was reminded today of a time when my sons were young, and I was trying desperately to raise them as best I could. Getting them to mind when they were toddlers wasn’t really that difficult. Most times, they were glad to do as I asked, and they were happy when I was proud of them for doing whatever it was I’d asked them to do.
But kids grow up. They make friends. They gather at playgrounds, and so help me God, they compare notes.
And as my sons grew, their worlds and circle of friends became larger, and the doorbell rang more and more often. Saturday mornings the neighborhood kids would come around to gather them for football games, or just to run around and play outside in the fresh air.
But there were chores to be done – Saturday morning “GI parties” we called them.
My sons learned how to clean toilets and scrub floors at a young age (on their hands and knees – the ONLY right way to scrub a floor). We vacuumed, washed floor boards and changed linen on beds. And when the work was done, then my boys could head outside, and not a minute before.
And while outside – the note comparing apparently began. It seemed that I was the only mother in town who made my kids clean toilets and scrub floors.
But I thought nothing unusual of this! It was how I was raised. It was just the way things were.
And then one day…….
Another neighborhood mom and I were talking outside. Her son had apparently complained that he had to fold and put his clean clothes away, and he whined and whined about it until his mom told him he ought to be thankful that he doesn’t live at Rory and Ian’s home – HIS mother makes them clean TOILETS and scrub FLOORS!
I could hardly believe she said this to me, I immediately began second-guessing myself, and after our conversation, called my mother upset asking, “Am I too hard on the kids? Do I make them do too much? Am I being mean by making them clean their own toilet?” She reassured me that I was doing the right thing, and to KEEP doing it!
It seemed like such a small thing….
But later in the week, that same young boy was over playing. Rory had just helped me a few days prior when I was painting the walls going down to the basement. He always loved helping, and so I let him paint the floorboards all the way down the stairs and he did a fantastic job, which he was quite proud of! And so was I!
The kids were playing in the living room, and this young boy took a shoe and threw it down the stairs, and it hit the wall leaving a large scuff mark on all of our hard work. My son’s eyes opened wide, he jumped up immediately from the couch, and yelled at his friend – I’ll never forget it. “Knock it off! I just painted that wall!” He was probably in about second grade at that time, but we had labored pretty hard doing all of that painting, and his hard work was unappreciated by his young friend. I didn’t have to say one word.
And I remember in that moment feeling such satisfaction. My son understood the value of his own blood, sweat, tears, and hard work. You see – it was more about THAT, than it was about getting the floorboards painted. Mission accomplished!
We are constantly teaching our children, and all too often, we don’t see it pay off until so much later – if we see it at all! They will likely whine and complain about our expectations and the decisions we make for them as their parents, and recruit their friends to join in when they conspire at the playground and tell their friends how mean their mom is for making them learn to scrub a floor or clean a toilet. But some day, their bride will surely appreciate their “skills” and our hard work at being the mean parent will pay off.
We don’t do it for us. We do it for them. And often times, I’m convinced it takes a lifetime to figure that out.
Parenting isn’t a job we ever retire from. And it’s not necessarily anything we will ever be thanked, recognized, or appreciated for. The whole world can think we did it all wrong. Every one of their friends can hate us for it. It doesn’t matter. Do it right anyways. Someday, whether we’re around to see it or not, someone’s gonna throw a shoe down the stairs, it’s gonna hit the wall, and when they jump up to correct them – they’ll remember who taught them to paint the floorboards, who applauded their hard work, and who loved them enough to do it even when they hated us for us.
And ladies? Teach your sons to scrub a toilet. Their wives will love you for it. 🙂
“Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. They are a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck.” Proverbs 1:8-9