Raise Up a Child

Patience (almost three years old) loves the kitchen. She has a play kitchen of her own, and we have bought child-sized real pots and pans and utensils for her. She loves to make raisin soup (six raisins in her little stockpot, stirred with a wee wooden spoon) which often as not gets fed to the dogs. But there is nothing as wonderful to her as real cooking, at the kitchen countertop, with real bread dough. She has a little rolling pin, and she rolls with great intent and concentration.

making her own pizza

When she knows that she will be participating in the kitchen project, she runs to the closet for her apron, gets her rolling pin and pushes a chair over to the counter. “Me cook!” she announces. “My cooking!”

But last time she got involved she wanted to run the show, and slapped at my hand when I reached for “her” mixing bowl. She was plucked from the chair, levitated into the living room, and set down in the time-out chair in the wink of an eye. She was then shut out of the kitchen. Her Nana came to see what happened, and found her, flour-covered and contrite, murmuring sadly, “Sorry, Dodie,” over and over. She was then restored through the intercession of a grandmother, gave a tearful and hopeful “Sorry, Dodie,” in person, and happily went back to work with no more temper. (“Dodie” is now her name for me. I used to be “Jii” rhymes with “Wii” but I like “Dodie” better.)

She will sweep with a broom twice her size with great vigour and little effect, will take a cloth and polish the furniture, and loves to wash her play dishes in the canning kettle.

a woman's work is never done

Housework is the work she sees day to day, and she takes to it enthusiastically. She is at the imitative stage of intellectual growth, so it is time to encourage this, and teach her not just how things are done, but that they are in fact fun and rewarding.

I see no reason for women (or men, for that matter) to treat housework and homecare as something distasteful. It is necessary and a clean, safe, beautiful home is a haven for the family. God intends nature to be self-renewing; in the natural cycle of life, things go gently into the soil as they decay; winds blow away the dead leaves and keep the air fresh; micro-organisms break down that which is harmful and then make it elemental. Humanity has made great strides in destroying the natural cycles, and the planet is not as God intended. But if you have ever been in a wonderful old-growth forest, or on a clean, untouched beach, or climbed a high mountain well above civilzation, you know what I mean. It is clean and sweet and pure, as God intended.

Our homes should imitate that purity. We can’t live on a forest floor, and we need to sweep and wash to keep our manmade floors clean, but God intends us to live in cleanliness and order. We live in an ordered universe. Even what seems random to us has been millenia in the making.

If we teach our children that housework, cooking and homecare are drudgery and demeaning, they won’t want to do it. They won’t want to participate in the natural order. We divorce them from nature by sending them to regimented schools, by dressing them in artificial fibres, by entertaining them with television, electronic games and shopping malls. We treat them to polluting and energy-consuming amusement parks, where adrenlin and constant novelty are stimulated. They don’t learn the satisfaction of a job well done, the quiet assurance that they are doing the best they can to care for others, and the joy of living in God’s creation. They are instead subjected to adrenal rushes, screams, flashing lights and overheated, overstimulated crowds.

I don’t want to be a prophet just identifying the problem; I am proposing solutions. Teach your children well. Teach them the benefits of natural living. Grow a garden, bake your own bread. Get off the worldly treadmill.

Don’t disparage the work you do, whether it is in the home or elsewhere. Be of good cheer about what you do. If you have a job that is soul-destroying, it may be time to move on to something else, even if it means cutting back on your  “lifestyle.” Get some education in a field you love. Don’t complain and have a morose attitude. Do what you do well, and set a good example.

Complaining less is one of my goals. My dissatisfactions weigh down those around me.  That doesn’t mean I have to take a passive attitude, it just means that if something isn’t going well, I need to work to correct it, and if I can’t I probably need to shut up about it. I’m a bit of a complainer, and quite eloquent about what’s wrong – it ends up being counter productive, since my complaints, while relieving my anxiety and stress, just pass the burden to others.

Raise up a child in the way in which he should go; and do it by good example.


12 thoughts on “Raise Up a Child

  1. I love this post!

    Our 3 years old love to do the same 🙂 It’s funny to see her run saying “Me clean” when I get the basket of cleaning product to clean our washroom ( I see a chore that will hers to do in the near future LOL)

    But she loves to do housework, from laundry to scrubbing toilet nothing makes her more happy then helping her Mama 🙂

    • It’s hard to believe that yours have grown so much! Did you know that the first time I met you at the John Street market I looked at you and said to myself, “That girl is pregnant!” and you announced it the next week.

  2. I watch both of my grandsons, the oldest is 2, and he loves to help in the kitchen. Henry also likes to sweep, and for several months I have been on the look out for a child size broom, yesterday I finally found one, and when he came over for supper he was thrilled with the new broom, he “swept” the floor for most of the evening!! My youngest daughter, now 17, always liked to help clean the floor when she was 6 or 7, she really liked the movie Annie, and she would get on her hands and knees to clean the floor and sing, “It’s a hard knock life” 🙂

    • I hope to find one for Patience. Paula tells me that there is a broom-maker in St. Jacob’s, but with my husband’s limited energy level, we haven’t mad eit that far to get Patience a child-sized broom. Despite the sweeper commercials, I find a broom works better than some narrow little sweeper that gets clogged with dust and dog hair after a couple of swipes.

      • Those swiffer things are useless if you have hair or anything but minute dust on the floor. I use a good old corn broom. Ella love to sweep, she doesn’t get much but she had fun. Yesterday Ella helped me make dog bones for the market. She had such fun rolling and cutting out some for her friend. Ella now has a full size rolling pin, just to make rolling easier. I love having my helper with me.

      • I miss Patience when she’s away. I was doing yard work, and there are a thousand little sticks scattered about – what a good time it would be to have a very short person with lots of energy!

  3. There’s a balance for me with housework, in that I love it up to a point. Then I get overwhelmed and grumpy and want to do other things. For me the solution has been keeping a tight discipline ensuring that Things do not Accumulate (Toinette Lippe: “Problems arise when things accumulate”). There is peace and satisfaction in keeping our home orderly, clean and beautiful; but I prefer not to spend the whole time doing it!
    I knew some monks whose Rule of Life included the observation: “The Priory should reflect the peace and order of Heaven”. I loved that, and it’s been my rule of thumb ever since: and I find the less I have the easier it is to accomplish :0)
    And I feel inspired to make some bread after reading this.

    • I think people get overwhelmed because they don’t see the accumulation and think it is important to keep everything. I just realized that a young woman I know is having difficulties adapting to adult responsibilities because she believes that everything she sees on television is important and socially significant, so she can’t let go of brand name clothes, outgrown children’s toys, kitchen gadgets or just about anything she has purchased or received that was advertised on television. She was raised in a strict Calvinist family that had no television, and her skewed worldview, now that she has left her childhood home, is that if television says it, it means something. As a result, she is becoming buried under things she doesn’t need, but won’t get rid of. She has tied her social status and her self-worth to advertising. I wonder how many of us have done this to some degree!

  4. How sweet that little angel is.
    I love to clean! My body doesn’t like me being up and about for very long so I humor it and take frequent breaks! LOL! I used to clean offices for a living when I was younger and I enjoyed it greatly. I used to be overly obsessed about my cleaning and I have now learned to live with my house not always being perfect but sometimes with all the work we are doing now the clutter and dust and all really start to bug me! LOL!

    • I used to get obsessive about the house, but I think it is because I was unhappy other things, and I was trying to build a “safe nest” to keep out the bad things. I should have just dealt with the other issues, of course! I don’t have to have an obsessively clean house anymore, so it wasn’t OCD. Isn’t it odd how something as good as cleanliness and order can be used by a disordered brain? I had the experience the other night of watching “Hoarders,” then realizing that I hadn’t finished cleaning the kitchen, and decided to get dishes washed up and things put away before going to bed. (Because that’s how it starts,right? And the next thing you know, 1-800-GOT-JUNK is on your doorstep with fifteen trucks and a psychotherapist, because you stopped doing the dishes every night!) But before I got to the remote to turn off the television, “Obsessions” (or whatever it’s called) came on, and their case study was about a man who dusts and cleans obsessively. So I was torn for a moment. But I did the dishes anyway.

  5. Thank you for the lovely pictures. I agree with you about home economics and house keeping skills. I think one of the reasons we are so fat in the USA is that we’ve turned away from skills such as cooking for our families and taken up the “convenience” of fast foods. We have gotten so good at being busy that we simply cannot find the time to take care of hearth, home and family. I am speaking in general terms of course.

    • Except for big seasonal chores, I see no reason to spend more than a few hours a week on the general cleaning. I have some serious dust mite and mold allergies, so I try to eliminate things that harbor allergens, like rugs, heavy curtains, and cushions – and that makes cleaning easier!

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