Feb 27, 2011

Pushing my kids

When the Mama's away, the boys will Work. And cry, and get hurt, and complain and complain and complain. And hopefully learn.

Over the weekend we prepped the chicken coop for new chicks (25 meat birds coming Tues), cleaned out the barn to dry the lumber we've had milled on our land, built a cow shed for the pregnant heifer coming next week, rolled coins, cleaned the house, put away laundry. We also baked brownies, played cards, practised piano, read The Borrowers, and enjoyed the school Barn Dance. A productive and fun weekend - those two adjectives should more often go together.

Yesterday I had the boys carry a heavy 12-foot plank through the falling snow to the cow pasture. The first time they cried and said it was too heavy, my Dad's ethic and my own gentler voice came out of me and said, "I believe you can do it." The next time they gave up I suggested they figure out a different way, and gave a few suggestions. The third time they cried I said I was going in for lunch and sure hoped they figured it out soon so they could join me.

I could pretend that when they did come in a bit later that they had beaming "We Did It!" smiles and had learned a lesson about work ethic and their own strength. In reality they were still tired and sore and a bit annoyed. But they had done it, and that has to lodge somewhere in their self-understanding - that they are boys who can do a hard job and finish it.

The slab they carried today was a bit heavier, and the rain had turned the snowy hill into a slush slide. It only took about 10 seconds for G to drop it on his thigh and erupt in painful tears. I came over, put my hand on his shoulder and said, "Ya, that hurts doesn't it," the left them to continue. A bit further down the path it was Z's turn to have it drop in his foot. This time my comfort included a bit of helpful lesson, something wise about figuring out how to work Together or they'd keep getting hurt. Another lesson I hope lodges deep.

The "ah-ha!" moment for me was while G was screaming, "You're so mean! You're the meaning person in the world!" I suddenly could see him at 15 yelling or muttering, "My dad's such an asshole." The words will be different, but the feeling of frustration and painful growth being expressed will be the same. I hope I can be as steady and gently loving in the face of profanity as I was at being called Mean.

I remember so clearly hauling wood with my brother until my arms ached, not allowed to stop till dad had finished with the chainsaw. I never would have dared to call him names, but the injustice of having to help haul wood or set up camp while my friends got to play right away was acute. But I did learn something about working, about my own strength, about working together with my brother, and about having a valued role in the work life of my family. If through the tears and hurts my boys are slowly absorbing these lessons that will make them better men, then we moved more than a couple pieces of lumber today.


  1. I've been there, trying to get my three kids to move logs from the trees we cut clearing our land. Funny thing is they were allowed to use our hand truck, but they refused to work together. Then the youngest grabbed the largest log piece she could find and as her arms were hanging with the weight complaining that it's too heavy. I calmly told her to use the hand truck, then got a "but mom she won't let me." "She" being her sister, their brother was working on something else this day; so I told her fine. Her sister got to sit in the house till she moved 10 log pieces then they'd switch places.

    You know it's amazing how fast a child will work sometimes.. after 30 minutes of complaining about the work, it only took ten minutes to do the work assigned. I wish they'd realize it before they take a long time from just complaining about it.

  2. I think every parent who works to instill good work ethic will hear those very words.

    I can tell you we went through the very same thing with our children and even though they have wonderful work ethics now, they still speak about how hard we worked them. In fact our 22 yr old son has been caught up in the world's ways( his fiance' is a city gal and does NOT have strong work ethic) and has convince my parents and anyone who listen to him, that we worked him so hard when he lived here on the farm, that is why he moved to the city.
    In our defense yes he worked hard, but no harder than the rest of us and he also had his rewards, such as the work he did with my Dh putting in fencing when he was 17 yrs old. Now my( at that time 42 yr old Dh) and 17 yr son did fence our entire 6 acres in one Spring/ Summer and not only did we praise him and share what a hard worker he was with everyone, but we also gave him our 1/2 ton 4x4 truck( which he'd longed for since he'd gotten his learner's permit)

    Even though right now he feels as if we worked him to hard, he still has those work ethic skills, even if he isn't using them right now*sigh*

    Some day they'll thank you for teaching them how to be good workers. :o)