One of Vivi’s most recent enjoyments is sitting in the sink helping with dishes while I’m washing. It’s one of her favorite parts of the day, and something she generally gets to do at least once a day. She loves helping and splashing in the water.
She also enjoys sitting on the counter and helping me stir stuff now…or doing it by herself. It’s created some opportunities to learn that tantruming doesn’t get her her way, since she sees no reason for help. J
Recently, when Vivi was in the sink with me, someone commented something about my efforts to create a “right hand” in her for the years to come. I think I was too taken-a-back to make much of a response at the time, but I’ve turned the conversation over in my mind quite a bit since then. Until it was mentioned recently, it had honestly never crossed my mind to put the effort into including Vivi now so that she could help me take care of my kids and my home when she’s older. So, what am I raising Vivi for? Why do I see it as important to include her in my day-to-day life?
The idea of raising Vivi to be my right hand is repulsive to me. Ben and I aren’t raising kids just so we can have a ton of kids (and, you know, look righteous), because they can take care of each other and the house. We both feel strongly that if we can’t take care of our own children, we shouldn’t have them. Nor do we want to “enslave” our older children….or become so dependent on them that we’re reluctant to see them move on in life- getting married, pursue new paths, etc. It happens too often in homeschool circles, and it’s ugly.
However, now that we’re off that soapbox….we do believe in being responsible….earning one’s keep, so to speak. It’s the reason Ben likes to help with dishes when we eat at someone else’s house…it’s why I like to contribute to the meals we share in. We want to be, as a family, contributors, not takers. And a lot of our goals for our children will end up meaning they contribute to our family. At some point our kids will have to contribute at least a little bit to society, and I’d rather ingrain that in our kids from an early age, so they can learn to take pleasure in work, instead of being thrust suddenly into it as lazy, good-for-nothing adults who don’t even know how to use a broom.
In a nutshell, our goals in raising Vivi- which motivate virtually every decision we make- are to raise a responsible, self-motivated, serving, caring, loving adult. We desire a strong and lasting friendship with Vivi, in which we can mutually share in good fellowship. We want Vivi to be able to think through the decisions she makes and the person she is. We want her to be self-motivated, willing to see what needs doing, and do it…in her own life and home and in that of others. We want her to be loving and grace-filled, with an ability to love people for who they are. We want her to be generally knowledgeable, and thoroughly capable. I want her to be able to manage a household by the time she’s a teen, and have a pretty good grasp of cooking, health, homecare, general management, budgeting and finances, etc. We want her to be willing to pursue things she’s curious about, to find out how the world works in any area of life. We want her to feel free to pursue whatever life direction she feels God calling her in- and to have the self motivation to make it all the way there. We desire her to be a contributor in life, rather than a taker who relies on others to help her and do for her all the time.
So when Vivi washes dishes with me…it isn’t so I can “make good use” of her in future years. We wash dishes together so we can enjoy sharing life- enjoy our relationship….we do it so she can begin to develop the makings of a hard worker. We do it so she can learn and see how it’s done…and so she can see how much fun it is to work together. Because we won’t reach our goals if we keep Vivi shut out of our lives, and in her own world, until we deem her “old enough” to be “useful”. A 5 year old doesn’t suddenly love having chores…and the effort it takes to get an untrained 5 year old to do any menial task (and, being untrained, do it unwell at that) is incredible. Plus, in waiting, we’ve lost the building of sweet fellowship. We’ve also lost opportunity to model how fun working together is…kids are smart, and they certainly don’t get that impression because they’re brushed aside by a stressed mother who says she’s too busy for a mess.
Having a helper makes everything take longer….it meant, when letting Vivi help stir granola, that we got oats on the floor. It makes doing dishes relatively inconvenient. It means flour all over the counters, and water in places I wouldn’t get it. But, it’s also an opportunity for so many beautiful things….beautiful things it’ll be too late to start working on and sharing in all too fast. And I hope that I’ll have unhelpful helpers for many years to come, as God blesses us with more children. Because having goals for our children that affect the rest of their lives mean that just training the first 3 or 4 (so they can do everything) isn’t good enough. I’ll spend the rest of my mothering career training and retraining the same jobs with different people.
Eventually- probably in just a year or two, if we can continue to instill a love for working together in her- Vivi will start to become truly useful. Messy, still, but actually helpful in some respects. And yes, she will be helping with household chores as she learns how to accomplish various tasks. In their turn, she’ll learn how to vacuum, wipe counters, unload dishwashers, sweep, do dishes for real, do laundry, put her clothes away, clean bathrooms, make bread, pull together a full meal, garden, etc.
And so long as Ben and I continue to hold on to our visions, it will always be something our kids do with us. Vivi will never learn to accomplish everything so someday I can sit in my recliner and watch the kids do all the work. But, hopefully, she will learn how to love what she does….learn how many pursuits there are in life and discover what she loves best….acquire enough skills to be thoroughly useful wherever God plants her, and capable of anything…and know, undoubtedly, she has parents who love and treasure her- no matter what.