Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Useful children

I am currently engrossed in The Doctors Mayo, a biography which my wonderful grandmother bought me during my recent visit to Minnesota. Not sure whether or not a work of non-fiction could hold my prolonged attention, I was tentative to begin but am now sold. The book involves all of my favorite themes: nineteenth century, historical academia, overcoming struggle and hardship, DIY ethic, pioneering spirit, and most of all, integrity. As working with children approaches once again (dance classes start next week), one little tidbit caught my attention and has been cycling through my brain today. Referring to the senior Dr. Mayo, father of the founders of the Mayo Clinic and his methods of child-rearing:

"From the time they were old enough to be of any help, Will and Charlie were expected to work as well as to study and play. 'Father wanted us to be handy'. He believed in useful children and did not allow his sons to acquire the art of loafing."

I think about this idea often as it is, but this snippet became a punctuation mark. What happened to useful children? I remember being paid nominal amounts to perform household cleaning tasks and was expected to clean my room on command, plus setting the table was a regular chore. Aside from these things, however, I don't remember having much responsibility. What happened to the idea that kids should be tolerated during work-related activity to see what adults are up to and yearn to be included in the task? Doesn't this teach them responsibility, good behavior, make them feel important and give them an insight into how they might function as an adult? It's possible this all but disappeared as we moved from a primarily agrarian society to a more urban high-tech lifestyle with plenty of conveniences to save us from threshing grain and churning butter. But does that mean kids should just play video games and watch television instead of helping wash dishes, shred paper, or jumping up to help unload groceries when dad gets home? I don't think so. Aren't there still plenty of things for children to do with adults to help them grow into responsible, productive adults themselves? I think most kids more than anything just want to please their parents and caretakers. Don't we just need to make the extra time and patience every now and then to show them how?


shola said...

few things here: bruth and i had an "i'd be happy to" race going as kids where whoever said “i'd be happy to” instead of whining every time we were asked to do something got a tally next to our name. whoever had the most tally's at the end of the month got to choose their fav fun activity (TCBY was my first choice) HOWEVER, plan backfired when bruth and i realized that we could really say "id be happy to" to just about anything. we'd start asking each other questions just to respond in that fashion, or, if mom casually asked "eric, what would you like for dinner?" then he’d say “i’d be happy to “ and just laugh and laugh. secondly, we had a special chore list where we could earn an extra $2.00 when completing a task on the prepared list. tasks included: digging 50 weeds, organizing the computer room, cleaning the litter box, and memorizing a verse in the bible. the bible verse was my particular favorite because on one night bruth announced to the fam that he had studied the bible for a while and would like to present his memorized verse with the exchange of some cash. we gathered. with a deep breath of seriousness bruth says “jesus wept” john 11:35… (shortest verse in the bible). after that he kept finding really short unmeaningful verses like “jesus died once for all” Heb.7:27 just to get a few bucks. my dad then had to make a new rule which was we could only memorize verses off of a list that he created. what im trying to say here is that kids are smarter then adults and to give us little money making tasks or some silly i’d-be-happy-to game is ridiculous cause we’re just gonna turn it around on your ass. i gotta get back to work… love the dress!

Caitlin said...

Hey, well kudos to your parents for trying. You guys were sure a pain in the ass...which is why any little creeper who comes crawling out of my uterus will be churning butter, gathering eggs and pinning my dresses together for no reward other than the satisfaction of a job well done. Consider yourself forewarned, creeper.

P.S. if there was a bible verse in response to your brother's interpretation of the $2 rule, it would be "Jesus giggled" John 11:36. Thank you.

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