By Jim Mettinbrink
One of the gravest mistakes parents make is to make their children’s life easy. Such irresponsibility begins with the baby. Going to the store, toy or grocery, the child whines he wants this or that, virtually everything. After enough whining, the parent gives in. Yes indeed the seeds of entitlement have been successfully, although unwittingly, sown in the heart of the most precious responsibility a person has on this earth. Although the first responsibility is instilling faith in Jesus as the Savior, we’ll save that for a later chat.
For a person to be a proper mate, parent, citizen and worker, the sense of personal responsibility must be instilled as a small child. In this age of wireless everything, the buffet of fruitless video distractions, air-headed texting, Facebook, and idle pleasures unlimited, the teaching and practice of real honest responsibility escapes both parent and child. Some of us recall the hippie Maynard Krebs in “Gilligan’s Island,” who at the mere mention of doing something, would panic and shout the foul four-letter word––work!
Recently my teenage grandson, obviously a result of a father-son chat, called to confirm that as a teenager, I had risen at 5 a.m. every day to work. When we finished, he was in disbelieving silence, but for certain he has a renewed view of accepting personal responsibility.
As country boys we loved to ride the tractor with Grandpa when he cultivated the corn. We all learned to drive the tractors at an early age. By age 13, I drove the caterpillar all day re-leveling irrigated fields before being planted with grain, coming home caked in dirt and sunburned. Now back to 5 a.m. When I was 15 (early 1960s) and my brothers were 13 and 12, we had 40 milk cows. Responsibility? Up at 5 a.m., we had two hours to milk cows, feed our dozen 4-H beef calves, separate the cream from the milk, bucket feed the calves, be in the house by 7, eat breakfast, and be at school by 8. One hour to eat, clean up, get dressed, comb our ducktails, and get the locks in just the right place (for the girls), …oh and we had only one bathroom! And we did it whether -20° F or 95° F, rain or shine, blizzard or darkness of winter. No heated barn either.
We were fortunate to have two milking machines, but…. when the temp dropped to about 20 degrees, the machines did not work, so we milked by hand. After school from 4 p.m., for two hours or more, we repeated the same routine. And that was just the daily routine––24/7/365!
During the school year, each Saturday was devoted to hauling hay and grain for the cows, calves, and 300 chickens. There were no luxury tractors (i.e., A.C./ heated cabs). At temps below 20° F, there was no loitering on the open-air tractor to get the hay / grain hauling finished. As spring approached, one of us would disc the cornfields from 4 p.m. to dark.
In contrast my son was town reared. At a very early age, his task was putting his toys away. By age seven he mowed a flat part of our yard, and he had his own garden plot. At age 12, he had agreements with the neighbors to mow their yards and clear the snow in winter (arise in the dark to finish that before school). By the time he was 17, he had worked in a childcare center, washed dishes in a military mess hall, cleaned stair wells in multi-story buildings, and worked at Subway. He bought his own car, fuel, and insurance, and had a clear understanding of “personal responsibility.”
So what does God say about personal responsibility? “If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat” (2 Thessalonians 3:10). “He who is slothful in his work is a brother to him who is a great destroyer” (Proverbs 18:9). If we fail to teach personal responsibility to our children at an early age, how will they fulfill 1 Timothy 5:4, 8?
You can imagine my angst when the neighbor teen was sitting on the curb sulking, “I hate mowing the yard,” and an hour later, still ruminating his daunting hardship, when he could have finished the job twice. What a waste! Maynard, where are you?
What Would Grandpa Say About.. Personal Responsibility?
By Jim Mettinbrink