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?