As I look outside my window I can see the first daffodils blooming in the backyard. Planting them was hard work a few years ago, and several months passed before I was able to enjoy the benefit of my labor. But now, every spring, I’m blessed with the reward of cheerful little flowers that brighten up the drab, rainy, spring days. I’ve been reminded this week that parenting, like planting a garden, is an investment that requires a lot of hard work and patience as we wait for years to see the results. It would be a whole lot easier to avoid some parenting challenges, and just let the weeds grow. But what would happen in our country if everyone did this?
Earlier this week I read a chapter from “A Thomas Jefferson Education Home Companion,” in which Oliver DeMille paints a not-so-flattering picture of our culture’s avoidance of anything that isn’t fun or immediately rewarding:
“Indeed, the lesson seems to be that everything should be fun. The worst criticism of our time is that something is boring, as if that made it less true or less important or less right. There is nothing wrong with fun, but there is everything wrong with a society whose primary objective is to seek entertainment. In American society, particularly among those under forty, the love of fun is the root of all evil. This is the legacy of the sixties – seeking fun has become a national pastime. Fun is simply not a legitimate measure of value. Things should be judged by whether or not they are good, true, wholesome, important or right. Commercialistic society judges things by whether or not they are profitable, and even socialism judges whether something is fair or equitable. But what kind of a people makes “fun” the baseline value or major criteria for its actions and choices?”
Uncomfortable yet? But wait, there’s more!
“There are very few things in life as fun as real learning, but we must earn it. And this kind of fun always comes after the hard work is completed. No nation which believes that learning should be fun in the unearned sense is likely to do much hard studying, so not much learning will occur. And without that learning the nation will not remain free. Nor will people stay moral, since righteousness is hard work and just doesn’t seem nearly as fun as some of the alternatives. No nation focused on unearned fun will pay the price to fight a revolutionary war for their freedoms, or cross the plains and build a new nation, or sacrifice to free the slaves or rescue Europe from Hitler, or put a man on the moon. We got where we are because we did a lot of things that weren’t fun. Americans today believe that it is their right to have fun. Every day they expect to do something fun, and they expect nearly everything they do to be fun.”
Ouch! I don’t know about you, but those last two lines hit a little too close to home. It’s hard to not go along with our culture that says, “Do whatever sounds fun, and when something stops being fun, quit.” But this kind of attitude has disastrous consequences, so it’s worth the work of teaching our kids (and demonstrating through our own actions) that real fun is earned, just like a good marriage is earned through commitment and continual effort to make it better.
My husband and I discussed whether or not we, as parents, are demonstrating this kind of commitment to hard work before play. Do we make our choices of how we spend our time based on what sounds fun, or based on what we believe is “good, true, wholesome, important or right”? This question, and the discussion we had with the kids after reading the chapter to them, led to some changes in our daily routine.
- If we’re going to make choices based on what is good, true, wholesome, important, and right, we have to include daily Bible reading with our kids. We decided to commit to reading a passage each morning from the “Day By Day Kid’s Bible,” which is a child-friendly Bible that is written in chronological order and divided into one year of daily readings. The language is both easy to read and understand for young kids. We also read one of Jesus’ parables from another early reader children’s Bible series, and the Proverb from my own daily Bible reading, since Proverbs are great discussion starters with kids. (As always, you can find this week’s Daily Bible Reading Schedule, which includes Proverbs, on the Faith tab above.)
- We decided that the best way we can illustrate the concept of “earned fun” is to institute daily chore time after lunch. Each child is paired with a parent partner, and works on whatever daily chores need to be accomplished (dishes, cleaning up the kitchen, wiping off the table), as well as one weekly chore (dusting, laundry, cleaning a bathroom). Every two weeks, the kids trade parent partners. We all pitch in and do a little cleaning after lunch before going off to play, and so far nobody has grumbled. The kids seem to enjoy being our apprentices as they learn how to take care of our home. And I have to admit, I like cleaning as a family so much more than working by myself, so it’s helping my attitude toward housework, as well. For more on this subject, there’s a great article at Simple Homeschool about the valuable life lessons our kids learn from doing housework.
- After reading a subsequent chapter about how wrong our concept of “balance” is – because the media has convinced us all that we need daily entertainment in order to be balanced – my husband and I decided to cut back on the amount of entertainment (i.e. TV) we make available to ourselves and the kids. We still have family movie night on the weekends, but weeknights are now filled with family reading time instead. We’re currently on our third book in the “Percy Jackson and the Olympians” series. While my husband reads, the kids sit and color or do crafts. I have to say, there’s something that just feels so wholesome and “Little House on the Prairie” about reading together as a family at night. The kids enjoy it, too. If this seems like a daunting commitment, try it for one week during National Screen Free Week, April 18-24. Here are a few ideas from Simple Organic for other things you can do as a family to replace screen time.
We can prepare the soil in our children’s lives by providing the right balance of work and earned fun. We can plant the seeds of right living by teaching and modeling good choices. We can nurture our children’s growth with God’s light and living water flowing through us. And if we’re willing to do the not-so-fun task of pruning undesirable behaviors and pulling weeds of selfish attitudes, our children will grow into the wonderful creation God made them to be. Parenting is not always fun or immediately rewarding, but our investment today will make a difference tomorrow.
How about you? What do you think about the statement, “Americans today believe that it is their right to have fun”?