As his mom gave her high school teen, Ronnie, a printed list of weekend chores, she heard the tall boy complain with the comment, “Anarchy!”
A few days later, “It’s your turn to wash the dishes,” she reminded him with a smile.
“Oppression! I’m oppressed! Nobody else has to work at home and wash dishes!”
“Well, you do as long as you live and eat here.”
Then the teen spouted off a list of privileges of an unseen presence and answer to all of life’s persistent questions from a teen point of view. The unseen presence: Nobody else.
“Nobody else has to clean their room. Nobody else has to do homework on weekends. Nobody else has chores. Nobody else has to be home by 9 p.m. “
Then he concluded with another presence who justified everything he wanted to do. It was “Everybody.” That would be “Everybody else gets to drive the family car. Everybody else gets cash for their birthdays. Everybody else goes to Disneyland and Six Flags for vacation.”
Not long after, word of his discontent and rebellion reached his grandma’s ears. She wrote her response in a letter.
My Dear Grandson Ronnie,
Bet you don’t know how many years ago God gave us the Ten Commandments first written down. One of the commandments is “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is going you.” [Exodus 20: 12]
In many ways, Grandson, dear, my father was not a particularly honorable man—especially where his own children were concerned. But he was my father. He gave me life, brown hair, brown eyes, a sense of humor and dimples!
Like your mother, mine had to raise us children with little or no help from my dad. Although she didn’t have to go out to work when we were small, her days were filled with trying to grow enough food, bake enough bread and keep a roof over our heads. We always had chores to do. They were never any fun. Even picking cherries or apples is fun only if you don’t have to do it!
Later on, when we were teens still in high school, my dad got the hotel job and we moved out of state. It was just after the Great Depression and nobody had any money. So he was buying the hotel with his hard work in exchange for shares. He recruited all of the family to keep up on the work of running the hotel. With a shortage of help, as well as a shortage of hotel rooms, my younger siblings, Dicko, 14, and sister, Gordie, 16, had to change beds and clean rooms when guests moved out on weekends or at night. Dicko also was the janitor. He had to vacuum the lobby, furniture and floor, dust the hallways and carry out all the garbage for the 100-room hotel. Gordie, and I were charged with washing all the towels, pillow cases, bedspreads and blankets. As high school students, we got up at 3:30 a.m. and fixed our own breakfast after our work was done. Usually Dicko went to the bakery next door for pastries while Gordie and I fixed our own lunches. If we didn’t have time, we did without. One night, Dad sent Dicko to with $10,000. in cash for a bank deposit. It was all bills rolled up in a newspaper. [In today’s money, that would be about $40,000.] That’s a lot to expect of a young teen just starting high school.
So washing dishes, doing homework, and keeping your room clean don’t seem very hard. Also, you’re not quite old enough to drive. And no, we didn’t get to go to any fancy vacation spots.
Why am I telling you all this? It wasn’t so tough, although I have never really forgotten that Dad often reminded us, “You don’t pay any room and board around here!”
I think one thing that my early life taught me is that parents are not always right, but they are always parents. Then, too, a certain amount of hardship when you’re young makes life a lot easier when you get older. There are several jobs I’ve had that I disliked more than doing hotel chambermaid or laundry work. I’ve had lots of bosses who were as unreasonable and ungrateful as my father.
My mother was entirely different than Dad. She worked hard at the hotel as any of us, as she was there all day and all night. She operated the radio for the puddle-jumper airlines, met the planes, distributed the newspapers as well as doing the hotel housekeeping and hiring and firing maids. There was one time Dad was away and she couldn’t get to bed for 54 hours. She was our mother, but she also had to be the hotel manager.
You want to know what being a mother is like? I’ve been one for almost 50 years! Every time I think I’m no longer needed or important, something comes up that reminds me that mothers have to do more than keep up with the groceries, the laundry and the letter writing. I still have to do all that, even thought my children and grandchildren are not underfoot.
A mother is someone who can love. She loves her children. She also loves her children’s friends, her friends, other people, and even dogs and a cat—but that’s a different kind of love.
She worries when her children are sick, when they are away, when they are in danger and when they are having trouble. When they are disrespectful or rebellious, the hurt is deep. She prays that they will realize that this is a childish stage and that they will soon outgrow it. But how soon?
A single mother has a double burden. She thinks she has to be both father and mother to her children while working full time, providing a home, food, clothing and companionship to her children. She has no strong man to fix the car, carry out the garbage, glue busted furniture back together or tinker with the heater when its freezing outside until it works again. Nor can she count on anyone to help provide food for her ravenous brood.
When she is sick, she worries that she might not be able to continue to support her children, or worse, that she might not live to see them grow up. That’s love!
Honor your mother and love her. She is doing a good job of training you to be a respectful, responsible man full of compassion who also knows how to work hard. The Bible says, “She watches over the affairs of her household and she does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children arise and called her blessed; her husband also. And he praises her.“ [Proverbs 31:27-28] Even in those days, a mother’s value wasn’t measured by trips to Six Flags or driving the family car.
Happy Mother’s Day to all! Thanks for your mission of loving, guiding and raising your children to be the best they can be.
[Much thanks to my mother, the late Jeane Gottsponer, who wrote this insightful letter to her grandson, age 15, at a time he needed to be reminded of his mother’s love and commitment. ]
[Jo Russell is a Christian speaker, author of scores of articles, a half dozen anthology contributions, and award-winning Which Button Do You Push to Get God to Come Out? A Humorous Devotional for Women. available where print books are sold and in e-book. Look for Give Us This Day Our Daily Grin – A Fun-Lovers Guide to Spiritual Living and Growing releasing June, 2017. Jo lives in northeast Arizona and writes a popular humorous weekly blog on her website, http://www.button-to-god.com.]