Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Dinner for Six

Kelly Chripczuk guest-posts reflective Y thoughts below on work, play, and social responsibility.  Kelly is a pastor to many, mother of four, and a blogger (A Field of Wild Flowers). 

It started in a moment of frustration as so many things do when I find myself home alone with four young children during the “witching hour” of 4 to 5 pm.  I was buzzing around the house tossing cereal in front of the twins in their highchairs and ferrying snacks to the older two who were camped-out in front of the TV while also trying to make dinner. 

Chop, chop, chop, . . . scrape go onions into the pan.  Grab another handful of cheerios for the babies.  Turn, and chop, chop, chop, . . . scrape go carrots.  Then the call from the front room, “Can we have some more snack . . . and some juice, please?” 

Something snapped in me as I marched out, two glasses of watered-down juice in hand.  I proclaimed, with a slight edge to my voice, “Someday you guys are going to cook dinner and I’m going to sit and watch TV while you do all the work.”  I was half-teasing, half- exasperated and didn’t expect my kids to turn with wide-eyed looks and exclaim, “Really?  Can we?”

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We just recently finished reading the book, Farmer Boy, with our kids.  It tells the story of one year in the life of Almanzo, an eight year old boy who lives in the early 1800s.  It was a slow book, mostly full of long, tedious descriptions of farm equipment, chores and food, but my kids loved it.  When I asked what they liked best they both said, “The corn part.” 

The book tells of a night, very late in the spring, where the farm experiences unexpectedly low temperatures.  The father wakes the whole family, from the oldest to the youngest, to try to save the corn crop from a killing frost.  Almanzo, along with his brother and sisters, stumbles out of bed and into the cold, dark night.  They pump barrels of water and ride to the corn fields.  Each member of the household runs continually through the fields, filling a small bucket with water and pouring a little on every young plant.  If they can wet the corn before the sun hits it, the crop will be saved. 

As we read Farmer Boy I was struck by the significant role children used to play in their families.  Almanzo works along-side his parents in nearly every task and his help matters.  No one would argue that it’s a good thing that we’ve left the days when children dropped out of school to help on the family farm.  But I wonder if many modern kids aren’t missing something crucial to the development of a healthy sense of responsibility and self-esteem.  Is it possible that deeper than their desire to be waited on hand and foot, my children also have the desire to be part of a loving, grace-filled community where their contributions are needed and valued? 

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Since reading Farmer Boy I’ve started giving my kids more jobs to do around the house.  I asked them both to empty the dishwasher the other day and a few minutes later I found my son sitting on the counter-top next to a teetering stack of dishes.  The whole stack slid into motion just as I rushed across the room to catch them.  Sure, there are more messes and many things go slower and end up being more work than if I just did them myself, but the look of pride on my six-year-old’s face as she makes her own sandwich or serves up a bowl of cereal for her brother makes it worth it. 

I want to give my kids a chance to be part of something bigger than themselves, but this often starts with letting them be part of the little things of life.  I want them to know that their willingness to contribute and pitch-in when and where they can (or even if they think they can’t) is worth something.  I’m hoping that this attitude is something they’ll carry with them as their awareness of the needs in the world, as well as their ability to meet them, increases. 

Places like the Y and other social organizations do a great job giving back to and supporting their communities.  It’s often through organizations like these that kids get their first exposure to the ways individuals and communities can impact the world around them.  As individuals involved in the lives of young children, we also have unlimited opportunities to invite children into little acts of service that can help them grow in awareness of the value of their lives.    

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So that’s how it came to be that my 4 and 6 year-old children will be cooking dinner at least one night this summer.  It won’t be a Martha Stewart-esque moment of culinary delight.  Instead it’s likely to be peanut-butter crackers served on paper plates on a sticky table.  But however it turns out, we’ll let it be enough and enjoy the sense of pride and accomplishment they get from  putting what they have to offer onto the table. 

1 comment:

Nichele said...

Excellent post. It is amazing how children innately want to be little helpers and it is wonderful to give them the opportunities to contribute to the world around them - even if it's as small as making a plate of peanut butter crackers. The smallest things make all the difference. Great job!