by Kay Wills Wyma
Our New Normal
One fine day, I Kay Wyma, wife, mother and recovering enabler, procrastinator, controller, manipulator and so much more, made a decision: my kids had a few things to learn about life. Things key to them living productive and independent lives.
To that end, I developed a list of duties my children need to master before leaving our nest, which launched into my experiment: a twelve-month endeavor to teach our kids how to be productive in our home.
Now, one-year later, my experiment to conquer entitlement and nurture personal responsibility has ended. But sadly, I need a few more months—probably more like years—to finish the job. Okay, so it never ends. At least around here, with our youngest now four, we've got lots more equipping years ahead of us. I'd add them up, but that would involve too much effort and too many of my precious remaining brain cells.
Looking back on our year, I wonder, Have we accomplished anything? Oh, I hope so. In fact, I know we have, but I also know we have a long way to go. It's a work in progress—kind of like me.
Well Worth the Effort
I launched the Experiment with the goal of clearing out entitlement attitudes by helping my kids become familiar with and proficient at basic household duties. It grew into so much more. Two glaring lessons stare me in the face as I consider our yearlong battle against entitlement: (1) less of self and (2) doing for others. These are the tactics that lead to lasting victory. The self-centered perspective of entitlement can't flourish in a person who values and is considerate of others.
I also gained a deeper understanding of why work matters, for all of us. Initially, I required the kids to do the work simply for the sake of accomplishing a task and broadening their capabilities. Well, that and I was sick of the clutter. But rather quickly I recognized the deeper meaning behind work, the essence of why work is and needs to be an integral part of all our lives.
Dorothy Sayers explored the sacramental nature of work in her essay "Why Work":
I have already, on a previous occasion, spoken at some length on the subject of Work and Vocation. What I urged then was a thoroughgoing revolution in our whole attitude to work. I asked that it should be looked upon, not as a necessary drudgery to be undergone for the purpose of making money, but as a way of life in which the nature of man should find its proper exercise and delight and so fulfill itself to the glory of God. That it should, in fact, be thought of as a creative activity under taken for the love of the work itself; and that man, made in God's image, should make things, as God makes them, for the sake of doing well a thing that is well worth doing. 1
I couldn't agree more. Rather than moan and groan about how entitled kids are these days, let's equip them to work hard and let's seek out creative ways to help them embrace the value of meaningful work. Then at the end of what most certainly will be a long road, most likely a countercultural road, we can sit on our front porches (sweet tea in hand) and watch them soar. I'm convinced, because I've watched it work, that when you teach your kids how to do things, then sit back and let them go, they will reach for and achieve goals much higher than any parent would have set.
So often we look to world, civic, and political leaders to solve societal challenges. The future world shapers are sitting at our dinner tables, able and ready (though likely hesitant) to fulfill their role. These kids—our kids—will be the ones who take all the technological advances, pair them with confidence gained through years of pushing boundaries, and change the world for good. Simple daily work and other-centered tasks pave the way for just such achievements.
Culture doesn't determine who people become. People determine what the culture will be. Might our equipped, empowered, unentitled kids be the ones who set the course for the future.
1. Dorothy Sayers, Creed or Chaos? Why Christians Must Choose Either Dogma or Disaster (Manchester, NH: Sophia Institute, 1995), 89.
Adapted from Cleaning House by Kay Wills Wyma by permission of WaterBrook Press, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.