Posted by Mom on September 6, 2018
The other day I offered my children a way to earn some money: “help me dig up the potatoes and I’ll pay you for your work.” “Okay, mommy!” and they all dashed off to put on their shoes. In short order the girls disappeared to make sure the chickens had enough food and water. They did not return. So, it was my son and I who worked away at harvesting the potatoes. I worked the pitch fork and he scooped up the potatoes as I unearthed them. We chatted away and laughed as we completed the chore. He was the only one to add more coins to his bank that day.
My son wants to help his parents with their tasks. I’m glad he does. I know that this willingness to pitch in won’t last and I should encourage it and nurture it now so it will become a habit for later. Habits are powerful. Charlotte Mason said about them that “each of us has in his possession an exceedingly good servant or a very bad master, known as Habit”. Rather than nurture habits of dependence, sloth, or entitlement, we need to take advantage of his interest and grow it into a magnanimous spirit.
Do you like that word? Magnanimous? I’ve only recently learned it myself. The latin construct of the word is a combination of animous, which refers to something alive, like a “soul” or “spirit” and magnus, which means “great”. So, magnanimous is literally, “great spirit.” Some of its synonyms for the word are generous, altruistic, unselfish, charitable, noble, or big-hearted. I would like my son to have the habits of unselfishness, charity, and altruism.
Little boys were designed with a desire to do a productive service; they want to contribute and will feel validated when their efforts are acknowledged. When our son is not busy with a task, he tends to get into mischief with his sisters or pester them until a petty squabble erupts. Keeping him occupied is a benefit to everyone. And having his attention and energy devoted to a productive task gives him a sense of purpose and keeps the atmosphere of our home peaceful. When we welcome his assistance, he also benefits by learning new tasks. Within the last month he’s learned how to use a level, prepare garlic for storage, remove skin from tomatoes, swap batteries in the hand drill, and drive a golf cart.
Here is a little story of how my son looks to entertain himself when this need to be useful and productive is brewing away within him. Recently, during a visit from his cousins, my son and his fellow male cousin were busy in the yard next to a patch of raspberries and plot of squashes. They were intermittently searching through the raspberry canes to find ripening berries while working away at a pile of just-picked squash laying on the grass with a pair of sticks in their hands. Into the squashes they were drilling their sticks and making holes of an ever increasing size. When I came upon them, while trying to hold my composure as best I could, my son told me they were trying to get the seeds out of the squash so that we could plant them again next year. I promptly informed him that we only take the seeds out when we cut the squash open to eat it. Now we wouldn’t be able to store or eat these squashes with holes bored into them. The boys left the squashes alone and went off to join the girls who were catching toads.