On a recent Friday, my wife and I were like many couples – both working 8-10 hour days. Our children, 13 & 15, had the whole, glorious day wide open before them! What a life, hey? Would they spend the day requiring constant entertainment? Would they need us to shuttle them back and forth from one activity to another? Would they get bored within three hours? After all, it’s already mid-July! There’s only so much to do – right?
Well, let me paint a completely different picture! It’s a beautiful portrait that tells the story of an incredible discovery. Over the past years, we’ve seen the significant value of teaching our kids the joy of the ordinary. This has had a huge impact on days such as the Friday referred to. We believe that our kids could actually enjoy household chores, errands, etc. After years of persistent teaching, consistent modeling, ample encouragement and rewards, it appears that something has stuck.
This particular Friday our kids spent an hour doing dishes, as we had hosted 3 couples for dinner the night before. They cut the grass. Our son babysat in the afternoon. Our daughter made homemade egg rolls for supper. They also read, did their devos and genuinely enjoyed each other’s company. And oh yeah, they also did some cleaning and helped with grocery shopping. I can hardly tell you the blessing all this was as my wife and I returned from work.
Now I’ll be honest – I’ve been very AFRAID to write this article. I didn’t want to create the impression that we have SUPER kids or that we’re such awesome parents. On the contrary, I’d say that if anything, two simple words might sum us up – intentional AND “lucky”. How were we intentional? Since the kids were young, we had a plan. We envisioned the answer to these questions – “what should a 10 year old, or 13 year old, or 15 year old, or 18 year old look like?” “What responsibilities should they learn to carry?” “What should they be prepared for?” In response to these questions we began to take very specific (and small!) steps towards these goals as each month and year went by. That’s what it means to be “intentional” and everyone can do it! Yes, everyone!
And why were we “lucky”? Well, on one absolutely normal day years ago, God hit us with something out of the book of Ecclesiastes. “Everything is meaningless” is the common catchphrase of the book. The author (probably Solomon) had everything he wanted, but still was unhappy. The book has a powerful finish, “now here is the conclusion of the matter: fear God and keep his commandments for this is the whole duty of man.” A great thought to meditate on, but it’s something earlier on that impacted us most that less-than-extraordinary day. It actually changed our life! Solomon said, enjoy your food and your work – this is our lot in life. And he was even hopeful that with God, this is possible!
Enjoy our food? Enjoy our work? These are VERY ordinary things, are they not? And then I GOT IT! It was a “eureka” moment! So many children (and adults) are discontent, bored and disconnected from each other because we view our ordinary lives – our jobs, our chores, our errands – as interruptions from the “real” joys – things such as leisure, hobbies, video games, sports, movies, etc. The secret of joy – Ecclesiastes was hinting at – is finding happiness and satisfaction in the things we’d spend most of our lives doing – our jobs, dishes, medical appointments, laundry, shopping, fixing the leaky faucet, canning, cutting carrots, etc.
So we went on this journey and it’s been wonderful! Teaching and training our children the joy of the ordinary has resulted in many benefits. Due to space I’ll simply list off the top ones. But let me say, parents (and grandparents), this is ALL very much worth it! The benefits:
- It takes a huge load off of us as adults, as four people share the responsibilities of a home, rather than two.
- We don’t need to do as many extracurricular activities, because we enjoy ordinary life. In fact, this may be hard to believe – the ordinary often seems less tiring and more appealing now.
- Our kids are ready for “real life”. There will be little shock in the transition to moving out. They’ve cooked, they’ve cleaned, they’ve fixed things, they’ve scheduled a day, and they’ve run errands at the credit union, at the grocery store and elsewhere.
- It’s less expensive by far. And these lower expenses open the door for more giving and less working. We find that we eat out very little and we don’t spend very much on leisure or entertainment because we actually enjoy our “normal” lives.
Are there ways you can simplify your life and return to ordinary? Ask the Lord to show you! Ask Him to reveal any prejudices you have against living a regular life!