Growing up, Saturday was our chore day. Even if we spent the night at a friend's house, we always had to be home by 7 am so that we could do our Saturday chores as a family. We worked until at least noon and then we were free to play with friends, or whatever else we wanted to do. Although at the time I HATED this Saturday tradition, as I look back on it now I think it was one of the best traditions we had. Me, my sisters, and my parents would clean out and organize the garage, pull weeds in the garden, scrub the bathrooms, mow the lawn, paint the house, etc. We worked hard and accomplished a lot.........at least that's how I remember it.
Now fast forward to my life as a mother with children who are old enough to work. Seriously, Mom and Dad, how did you do it??!! Teaching children to work is not only hard work it also requires A LOT of patience, long-suffering, repitition, consistancy, and endurance. Disciplining is hard, but I think that teaching your children how to work is even harder. But, it is worth all the effort it takes (I need to remind myself of that every single day!!).
This last Saturday evening, after our chores were done, we decided to build a camp fire in our homemade backyard fire pit and roast marshmallows. Cory told the girls that they needed to go and help him break branches from the big pile of tree limbs that he had trimmed off our trees over the summer. I was in my bedroom feeding Makayla and as I looked out the window to watch my girls "working" with their Daddy, I started laughing. There was Cory breaking and cutting up wood while the girls were making leaf piles and running and jumping into them. Although part of me wanted to open the window and tell the girls to get back to work, I didn't. Instead, I just enjoyed the moment. I watched with fondness as they played with one another, laughed together, and even taught Hailey how to make an angel in the leaves. They were ten of the best minutes of my day.
Although they had only broken up a handful of branches, they had so much fun "working". As we sat around the campfire later that night, they proudly talked about all of the branches that they had helped break apart. The words of the kindergarten teacher that mentored me as I did my student teaching came to my mind. One day as we were looking at the finished products of one of the art projects I had come up with, I commented about how horrible they looked and that I guess that project was a failure. She then said, "Melissa, it is the process that matters most, not the product." Those words have become a life lesson for me over and over again through the last seven years.
So much of what we teach and do as parents end with a product that may at times seem like a failure. The "scrubbed" bathtub that is not even close to clean, the silverware put away in the wrong slots, the bedroom that is clean until you look under the bed, and the "clean" windows that now have more streaks than when they were dirty. But then there are moments, within the painful process of teaching, that the real lessons are learned and when the true measures of success are realized. Moments of clarity when all of the sudden the task to be accomplished is overshadowed and insignificant as you see what is truly happening in the process.
I'm sure that as I worked all of those many Saturdays growing up, that the jobs that I did were not even close to what my parents hoped for or expected. But nonetheless, within the recesses of my memory I can still see me "working" alongside my family to fix every problem that needed fixing and every job that needed doing. And in the process, we learned the most important lesson. The lesson that cannot be taught with words or lectures...because it is the lesson of love. The love that binds a family together. Growing up, we had that kind of love within our family, and we still have it today. This is the lesson that I want my children to learn. The people that we become, the product of our existance here on earth, will never be complete in mortality. But, the processes we go through, the lessons we learn along the way, are the ones that will determine the success or failure of the finished product.
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