Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Lessons Come in Many Packages

"There is no such thing in anyone's life as an unimportant day." ~ Alexander Woollcott

If anyone asked, I’m certain my children would have replied that yesterday was not a special day – a list of chores was awaiting all of us in preparation of our upcoming vacation and the beginning of school.

The boys were requested to clean their rooms and one bathroom each, vacuum and organize the toys in the playroom. Most of the chores were attended with little fuss, but when it came to the bathrooms they instantly began to drag their feet.

Instantly switching to drill sergeant mode, I told them they had to fulfill their tasks or else. I don’t expect perfection, but a piece of cardboard and an orphan bottle cap can hardly be defined part of the décor, so I made them go back a few times to clean what they had left behind; needless to say, they generously huffed and puffed the whole time.

I also made them help their little sister with her chores, and bring a stick of butter to an old neighbor – by the end of the day, they told me I would have done well as a slave owner. By the time their father got home, and asked how their day was, they both said their day was boring and mom was mean as a hornet, to which, of course, my husband replied that some day they will be thankful that mom didn’t allow them to slack off.

My oldest son thought about it for a moment and turned toward his brother. “He’s right” he said, “I’ve actually learned something cool today”. My jaw dropped at this point, although I tried very hard to pretend I was eating. My husband asked what he learned, and Stephen said: “I saw that as a team we get things done quickly, and mom’s critique showed me that my job wasn’t done right - once I start something I need to finish it. And I also learned that it is okay to stop what I’m doing to help someone else who’s smaller or needy.”

I wasn’t even pretending to eat any more. I was so surprised at my son’s wisdom that I didn’t care if I looked like a deer in the headlights at that moment. He was right. An ordinary day – and a hard and boring one at that – had turned into a learning experience.

Every day is a new page in the book of life, and by going through the motions of our routines we learn things we take for granted.

In one day of cleaning, my sons learned the meaning of compassion helping a neighbor in need and their little sister; they learned the power of teamwork; they learned they should never leave a job until it is completely done; most of all, they learned that a good lesson can hide behind the most boring of tasks.

They also learned that mom can be a slave driver at times, but that’s a story for another day.

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