My son, Zach, sent me a text message and a picture the other day that brought back a flood of memories. The text told me he had discovered one of his cows had calved, but that the calf had slid under the fence and was covered in snow. And so the challenges of raising a bottle calf began for Zach and Becca. But if you were to ask my granddaughters, Mackenzie and Macy, they would say the joys of raising a bottle calf had come their way. I say this because the picture Zach sent with his
message was a picture of Mackenzie and Macy with their new responsibility; both girls smiling from ear to ear.
Oh, the memories! Raising our four children on a farm gave them plenty of opportunities to enjoy responsibilities like Mackenzie and Macy have with the new calf. And I can honestly say they were always ready to take turns feeding the bottle calves we raised and the occasional lamb who needed a surrogate mom...or three or four.
Our children willingly (most of the time) did their daily chores, helped in the hay field, took their turn doing late-night lamb checks during lambing season and there was even that time I needed help tracking down a few goats along a major highway (thanks, Olivia). And through it all, we worked as a family.
Our children weren't perfect. There were times they didn't do what they were expected to do (especially when it came to pulling weeds). But they never resented the fact that they were expected to work. In fact, it gave them a sense of pride. They were proud they were able to do things other kids didn't know how to do. They were proud of the fact that they earned the money to buy their first car or truck, their insurance, cell phone and the little extras they wanted that didn't fit into our budget.
The lesson I want to leave you with in sharing my memories is that of responsibility. Children need responsibility. They should be expected to do regular chores and to help out around the house with the bigger jobs; jobs like cleaning out the garage, getting ready for a yard sale and yard work. Oh, and did I mention they need to do this without expecting to be paid for everything they do?
That's right. We didn't give our children a regular allowance. They did their chores because that's what being part of a family is all about--working together for the good of everyone. No, we didn't use our children as cheap child labor. They were never made to do things so that we wouldn't have to do anything. We taught them to be responsible by example--by working with them.
While our children didn't have everything they wanted (what child should?), they always had everything they needed and we supported them in their extra-curricular activities by making sure their fees were paid, equipment was purchased, practices were attended and that we were there to cheer them on.
Most importantly, however, they knew they were loved and that because we loved them we wanted to give them something more important than things. We wanted to give them the ability to make their own way and to be people of integrity.
Sadly there are way too many parents who feel that doing everything for their children instead of teaching them to do for themselves is to show them love. But a little work never hurt anyone...including a child. If you don't believe me, take a look around. You won't have to look very far to find a young person lacking in the area of responsibility and work ethics.
That chore chart is looking pretty good now, isn't it?