I know it seems all I ever talk about is the glamorous life we lead, what with frozen pizza, Billy's custom tee shirts, and weekend trips to Cheyenne, WY. Once again, if you've got nothing better to do, I'd like to share what a recent Saturday looked like at our house. The morning was spent with some young friends of ours, in love, and moving in the direction of marital bliss. Over muffins and scones, we asked them questions about what it means to be committed, and how they resolve conflict. Billy was discreetly taking notes, so we could work on some of our own issues, as I peppered them with the same stuff people asked us before we got married 17 years ago.
The kids were in heaven while our friends were visiting, for it meant no Saturday morning chores. And then our friends left. The children looked at each other startled and dazed, like the time our cat Nacho proudly brought them a dead bunny. Unfortunately their "free day bubble" was about to burst abruptly, spurting angry little faces all over our house that were going to be cleaned up with a "work party". Not everyone knows what a "work party" is, in fact, I bet no one besides my family of origin does, considering my dad is the one who coined the phrase, and while it was catchy in the 80's, it never seemed to take off anywhere else but in his head.
Billy and I enthusiastically laid out the chore list, and told the kids to get gloves from the garage, and put on sneakers. This was going to be a real workday, not one of those Saturdays where all you do is clean the sliding glass door and throw away dead frogs from your aquarium. Nope, we had a lot to do, and there was going to be no room for complaining. The mandate of "no complaining" would prove to be difficult for Jack as he'd gone to bed at 4:30 am, because someone (rhymes with Milly) let Jack and his buddy Ben, play Halo 4 all night long in our living room. No complaining would also test the merit of our daughter Faith, as she believes wholeheartedly girls were not created to do manual labor.
We gathered supplies and set about our tasks. Billy went straight to the garage, as that's been on his list since 2007. The kids and I tackled the side of the house, breaking up sticks to burn in the fireplace on cold winter nights. After that task was done, we took on the weeds. While Jack was going on and on, talking about what we were going to have to do next, I noticed Faith moving rather slowly. After speaking a little too harshly about being faster, she asked for a drink of water. It was hot out, and she is prone to faint, so naturally I told her to go get a water bottle. Billy found her in the kitchen ten minutes later with neither water, nor a bottle. At this point she enjoyed an impromptu lecture given by Billy called, "Moving with purpose". I so wished I'd known he was speaking on that topic, because I would have sent Jack in from the backyard to listen. His stream of consciousness may have impressed Freud, but it was about to drive me crazy.
Right about the time Jack was asking me why weeds grow, I moved to another part of the yard with my youngest child Will. He and I took on the task of filling a garbage bag full of dead branches from our lilac bushes. We worked quickly, and while Will is chatty like his brother Jack, he somehow seems to have mastered working WHILE talking. And what's more surprising is Will likes to work. He always has. The child is most content when he has a job to do. At one point I swear to you he said, "Thanks mom for letting us work today". I so wished I had an acre of land he could toil. We'd never have to buy tomatoes again.
There may not seem to be anything noteworthy about a day of chores with our children. It was pretty much what you'd expect: complaints about being hot and tired, and eventually watching them function together to get a job done. We believe there's value in learning how to contribute to the world, and our hope is as they grow up with a work ethic they'll develop ambition to go and do something great with their lives. Getting past the initial grumbling tested my integrity as a mother. This kind of day isn't easy, but it's the kind of day that builds character not only in our kids, but in us parents as well. And by the end of the day, there was laughing and enthusiasm for what was next, and all three kids carried themselves with a sense of accomplishment. The weed-free grass and clean garage may not last for long, but learning how to help carry each other's burden, well, that might just be eternal.