Friday, August 7, 2009

Finding Joy in a Job Well Done

My boys like to work. That is, they like interesting work. Real work. The kind of work that grownups do. Picking up their toys is not the kind of work that they enjoy. It is tedious and dull, and often overwhelming. Still, it needs to be done. So I am learning how to help them find joy in their work. They need specifics. "William, you pick up the yellow cars. James, you pick up the red ones." This works wonders for them. It makes the task much more manageable. Or I say, "can you each pick up 14 blocks?And "snap, the job's a game!" Didn't Mary Poppins say that? A few minutes later they proudly announce they've each picked up 47 blocks!
I think Mary was on to something. We all like a reward of some kind for a job well done. Some times the satisfaction comes just from seeing something completed, or from the glass of iced coffee waiting for you at the end of that last washed dish. In this case, the reward was a tall glass of fresh squeezed orange juice.
Our orange trees were loaded with fruit. They needed to be picked. I had to do the picking, because I had to use a ladder, The boys had to catch the oranges I dropped down to them, wash them and put them in a bucket. It was real work, and they enjoyed it.
It is easy to overlook kids as we go through our day doing our "real" work. It is often easier to do the work ourselves rather than have little hands "help" us. But those little hands need to have "real" work too. Not just the work of picking up toys, but the kind of work they will be responsible for in the future. William loves to help me wash dishes. James loves to unload the washing machine. They both love yard work. Oh yes, everything takes longer and is much harder when they help. But they are learning so much in the process. Sometimes you just have to make a mess.
We certainly made a mess when we squeezed all those oranges for juice. But we learned about the parts of an orange: the pith, the pulp and the membrane. We learned about how simple mechanics: how a juice press works. We leaned about pressure and volume and making estimates. "Is there enough juice in this orange to make the cup overflow?" And while we were learning all this stuff, we were doing real work, and we were having fun!
Oh, yes,, and we got very, very messy.
After we squeezed all the oranges, we enjoyed the fruit, juice actually, of our labor. Mmmm, so good. This is the kind of lesson I love to teach.

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