It has always been a value of ours to raise our children with a strong work ethic. Some people might think that this is something only "farm families with 10 kids do", but that could not be further from the truth. We started this right from the start with our family, when we only had 2 kids and rented a house "down town" with about .27 acres of land! So I want to dispel that myth from the start. :-)
Now that we are on the farm and those first two kids are really at an age that their training for the years prior is showing it's fruits. They are a big help! Since we have chosen to homestead and our family has grown, there is no lack of opportunities to learn and do things. This is also a value we cultivated way before we ever kept Shabbat or knew there was such a thing as "Preparation Day"...yet like everything that YHVH leads us to do on Preparation Day is a wonderful exercise to put these principles in action! And it is followed by another wonderful object lesson of balancing our love of work by resting on Shabbat. It helps us to learn to be still as we sit back like YHVH did in the beginning and be satisfied with the work of our hands, the blessings that He has poured upon us and the ability turn it all off for Him. It's a beautiful thing.
Since we have recently doubled our family (from 3 to 6 children via adopting two who were 2 and 5 at the time, and having a baby in the same year) we have had to reapply this value in a new way. It used to be so easy. When you have one child come at a time, there is a natural progression and maturity between your children...you have time to "grow into" how you do things. But that was not our experience this last 2 years. Our two daughters didn't speak English and came from a different country and an orphanage...Our youngest son had just turned 3 at the time too, so in essence we were learning how to parent in a whole new way! It was so tempting to "escape" into our work and let the kids "play amongst themselves" while we got a clear head again. But we quickly re-learned that this was not for the benefit of all. So after our transition...we went back to the "old ways" which we knew were better. We reduced toys and brought our littlest children beside us in the tasks we were doing much more regularly and things started coming together again. Here are some things you can expect when doing this:
1. It will take longer to do
2. Things will be messier
3. It will be easier to get side tracked
4. You will be knitting your hearts together with your children
5. You will be teaching them valuable life skills
6. You will be giving them a sense of worth and value
7. Your child's learning style will become very apparent to you
8. You will be transferring your values to them
9. You will develop a love of work in them
10. You will instill confidence in them
11. You will need to learn patience
12. You will be teaching them responsibility
13. You will be teaching them accountability
14. You will be teaching them good stewardship
16. It will cultivate a heart of service in you (if YOU let it)
17. It will shift the whole environment of the house
18. You will be teaching the the power of a good attitude (if YOU have one)
19. You will teaching them how to cooperate
20. You will be teaching them how to listen and obey in a positive way
You will be teaching them TORAH!
In stead of children who are finding trouble to get into, or whining of boredom, your children will start coming to you and saying, "Mommy, do you have a job for me?", "Mommy, can I help?".
Now, little ones can't always help with everything and when you have lots of them, you need to learn to be a really good multi-tasker and rotate them while occupying the others safely and constructively...it is no small tasks. But be encouraged momma, because this is Yah's work you are doing as you prepare your children's hearts, minds and habits to walk in YHVH's ways. It is SO worth it and they are never too young to learn. If they are old enough to get the toys out, they are old enough o learn to put them away. If they are old enough to get made and throw a tantrum over not getting their way, they old enough to learn how to control that temper.
On preparation day, it is so easy to put the kids in the "play room" while we get things done, but I want to suggest you that if we incorporate a good work ethic in our children through the whole week long, that Preparation Day becomes a day where those fruits that were cultivated all week long can be harvested and enjoyed!
Some simple chores that little ones can do by your side on Preparation Day:
- Getting supplies or putting them back
- Holding your dustpan
- Putting dishes in the drainer
- Drying dishes
- Sorting silverware
- Mixing (keep the spoon on the bottom)
- Putting pre-measured ingredients in the bowl
- Dusting with a damp cloth
- Picking up
- Organizing/ sorting toys/straightening
- Matching socks
- Folding some things
- Setting the table
- Putting dishes away in the bottom cupboards
- Making beds
Sometimes, I do things, then I let one of them come behind me and "finish up". For example, I wipe the table, rinse and wash the wash cloth and then give it to a little one. They "finish up" (although the job has already been done to my satisfaction). Likewise, I let them start a job and then I "finish up". This keeps them busy, helps them practice but lets me get see that the job is completely done. Does it take more time and brain space than "just doing it myself"? YES? But this is what "training" is! I have learned that the time invested early results in fruits later...some day that little one will be able to take that job over and do it well. And depending on the personality of the child, you will see that some will do it much quicker than you thought...and some will take a lot longer than you hoped...but that is all part of "the walk" isn't it?!
Babies: I understand how hard it can be to get things done when you have a baby who needs your hands on attention! Sometimes in some seasons, we just have to do less! However, there are things we can do to ensure the necessary things get done with our babies. Having a place to set the baby in your presence is nice. A swing, bouncy chair, bassinet or even a bucket car seat before they are able to support themselves is so helpful! I have also used a laundry basket lined with towels or blankets. Keep the baby close, where he can hear your voice and where you can sing and talk to him. Swaddling a newborn also gives them a sense of security as do regular patterns of eating and sleeping and interaction (play). (Secrets of the Baby Whisperer was an amazing book that helped me develop the intuitive skills of understanding my baby's needs, while at the same time, developing a pattern to train them into. It is ironic, because the context of the book is an about an "British Hollywood Nanny to the Stars" which is so far from my heart and beliefs, that the irony can't be denied. Yet it was YHVH who directed me to it and it was instrumental in my parental understanding. These things were not mirrored or taught to me before. Hopefully my daughters will not say the same thing! ) While it may seem that "you will never get anything done" with a baby, you will look back and see these months really go fast. You will not cling to the preciousness of chores, but you will cling to the coos, long gazes, the grabbing of your finger and the daily growth of your baby - so do let that be lost in the shuffle.
Some folks like to wear their babies. I have always done this in balance with being able to set them down too. It is tricky to wear a baby in front sometimes, s0 I am not comfortable wearing them during chores until they are old enough to hold up their head and be worn in the back. Some people do it with no trouble...but I have old back injuries to contend with and I find it very cumbersome and counter productive to try to cook or wash dishes with a baby between me and my task. So kudos to you who have that one figured out! :-) Baby wearing has been done in cultures all over the world since the beginning of time! There is something very organic about it that I love. Some babies take to it quicker than others, while others need to "get used to it". If you have a baby that makes a fuss...just do it in small intervals to get him used to it..when you don't HAVE to do anything (because that gets frustrating to start a 20 minute task and have to stop 5-10 minutes into it!). Increase the time little by little and before you know it, they will get used to it. :-) Some babies don't like to be set down and you have to do the same with chair training. I find both to be very valuable and important to being able to get my chores done with a "wee one". Each baby is different, but most all babies can be trained with loving consistency and compassion. If you have a special needs baby, than you may need to find support for chores ...just remember this too shall pass!
Don't sweat the small stuff...its all small stuff! And remember to always keep the joy in the journey!