My older sister is like my parenting mentor. She is a great, purposeful mom, whose children are a few steps older than mine, so she stays ahead of me with advice. Oh, and her kids are fantastic and so well behaved and have so many traits that I want to see in my own kids. Whenever I spend time with my sister, I find myself motivated to be more meaningful in my mothering. During my recent visit with her she was talking about how, whenever her children need an attitude adjustment, she cures it with hard work. Her kids are all beyond the ages of spankings or time outs, and she has found that making them do a bunch of chores seems to help put things into proper perspective for them.
Yesterday I had the opportunity to put this theory to work, pun intended. I was taking my boys to Target to get the things for our Operation Christmas Child boxes. This is something our family has done for a number of years. We buy toys and essentials for children in foreign lands who wouldn't otherwise get Christmas gifts. This seems like a great opportunity to me to open my kids eyes to the fact that we are completely blessed with things, and family and that not everyone has such reasons to be grateful. My daughter is a thoughtful compassionate little girl, and this has traditionally been a fun little time with her, to pick out things and think of others. Well, she was away at school, and I thought I could do this with my boys.
They really wanted nothing to do with picking out gifts for others. Instead, they wrestled and squirreled around in the cart, threw tantrums when I wouldn't buy things for them, and pointed out item after item that they would like to receive for Christmas. I was dismayed. But then to top it off, as I was finishing up at the checkout they were laughing and pointing at people and saying "he has a bad face, oh there is another bad face."
At this point I was furious, and told them so. As we drove home with the doom of impending punishment in the air, both boys fell asleep. (This must come from the same skill set that husbands have that enables them to fall asleep during an argument.) Well as they slept I was able to gain a little perspective. First, yes I was reminded that they are 3 and 4 years old, and I was expecting a lot. Second, I was also reminded that they were clearly tired, and perhaps I that has some reflection on their behavior. Third, I remembered what my sister had said about hard work and so when they woke up, I had a plan.
Brandon had recently done a creation book at his preschool and learned how God created the world. We talked about how God worked for 6 days and rested just one. I told him that God designed us to work and that he had been getting away with to much play and not enough work. So, they had to do 6 jobs before they could play. The boys, put laundry away, carried a bunch of things down stairs, cleaned up the basement, dusted, cleaned bathrooms, even vacuumed the van. All supervised of course. It definitely worked, they both had better attitudes. The sweetest part was a bedtime prayers when Brandon ask God for forgiveness for his behavior at Target.
I sometimes struggle to make selfless choices with my time. I like facebook, and dinner out and even going to the gym. I like watching tv and reading the occasional book and yes, I like to go to Target. These things may be permissible, but they are not always beneficial. I need to keep that balance that God ordained which is 6 days of work, to 1 day of rest.
I feel a little pathetic realizing that the same principal applies to me. There are many times in my life that I also need to be put to work, to gain a little perspective. I am still a child of God. I love to live in a clean house, but even more than that, I like the process of cleaning. While I am at work purging and purifying my home God is often at work purging and purifying my heart. So, if I am grouchy and critical and self absorbed, I am realizing I need to get off my duff and get to work. A clean house plus a clean heart seems like a win-win situation for my family.