With the kids serving at Village Creek for most of the summer, the chore of walking Beth’s dog (Bagel the Beagle) has often fallen to me. Much like yesterday morning, I had no desire to walk the beast today. Even though he provides me with exercise, I had no interest in that this morning. I wanted to stay in bed and wait for Aleve to kick in to ban the headache with which I awoke. However, because I skipped all of his walks yesterday, I felt a certain amount of guilt, pulled myself out of bed, and headed out the door with Bagel in tow. Actually – it is always the other way around as Bagel does most of the towing in this relationship. He can find joy in walking at a manageable pace until a squirrel crosses our path. Because the baby squirrels born in the spring are now out of the nests, the squirrel population is out in full force. This makes for an exciting walk – one which varies in pace from manageable to nearly running. I do not run.
As I walked today, though, I did think about how all of the tasks that we do such as walking the dog, paying the bills, wedding the garden, folding the laundry, and washing the dishes are simply an exercise of faithfulness. As parents, we expect Beth either to talk the dog twice a day or to ensure that she has found a replacement to do so. We expect her to be faithful to this task. We want her to learn the value of routine and being faithful in the little things. Bagel did not join our family until Beth had reached an age where we could expect this bigger thing from her and until she had already been faithful in other, less important areas.
When our family lived in Beverly, MA, while Kerry attended seminary, our children grew up before us transforming from the one and two year old children who moved with us to the four and five year old children who left for Scotland with us. Because we were young parents, we sort of stumbled our way through parenting. Thankfully, we had some great advice. Surprisingly enough, the best advice about raising our children came from a pediatrician who, when the kids were about two and three, asked us what chores our kids did on a regular basis. When we shrugged our shoulders at him, he walked us through having our kids folding washcloths and towels as well as moving our dishes and silverware within their reach so that they could unload the dishwasher (not the sharp knives, of course!). This provided a framework for us to raise children who do not expect payment for mowing the lawn, washing the kitchen floor, or helping out with dinner parties.
I have often wondered why our current generation of high school students struggle so much with responsibility. I see this a lot as I talk with families when a student is truant. How can a student be truant from an online school? All they have to do is just do the work, stay off my radar, and never have to worry about truancy. However, I sent letters to, spoke on the phone with, or met in person with at least 25% of my school’s population in my first four months of employment there during the past school year. When I ask them what chores they have in the home on a regular basis, they rarely even know what a chore is let alone have them. Their parents shrug at me – much like I did at the pediatrician. Unfortunately, parents of 17 year old students have already lost the battle and cannot regain ground in this area.
Behavior is learned. Behavior must be taught. Responsible, faithful individuals in the workplace will be fewer and fewer until parents realize that, by not teaching responsibility, they are teaching a lack of responsibility. Expecting my four year old to be responsible in folding underwear, socks, and pajamas prepared her to be responsible enough to work at camp this summer and be a family assistant for a family of seven. Expecting my three year old to put away the silverware from the dishwasher prepared him to work at camp this summer and be a family assistant for a family of five.
I am not a good parent by my own inklings. In fact, I would prefer to stay in bed and let them grow up on their own. Fortunately, a pediatrician a long time ago told us that we would regret not parenting. He essentially ordered us to be good parents. We were too young to ignore him. In the same way that we followed his advice and gave our kids medicine when they had ear infections, we made our kids fold the laundry and unload the dishwasher. We have expected them to be faithful in these little areas in the hope that one day they will be faithful in larger areas when the time comes.
Interestingly enough, Kerry and I recently took part in a small group at church where we read and discussed a book by George Barna called Revolutionary Parenting. The book detailed qualities of parents who raise dynamic individuals who give back to their communities and churches. Although the book details raising spiritual champions, many of the qualities and actions of these parents follow along with raising what I would call responsible and faithful individuals. I would hope that my children would be spiritual champions; I am glad that we went through this book. I am also thankful that, in the absence of this book ten years ago in my parenting walk, I was given advice from our pediatrician. The actions that we expected from our children based on his direction have given a foundation to them becoming spiritual champions.
Tomorrow or this evening, I will walk the dog and be thankful for him. He is a symbol of my daughter’s “graduation” into a more responsible and faithful individual….even if she did dump him on me for the summer so that she could go to Village Creek and serve. 🙂