Returning from vacation I knew that the neglected flowerbeds would look atrocious. They did and this past Saturday was a perfect day to attack the weeds that had grown and taken over. Our front yard has 6 areas where the previous owners had flowerbeds, plus add the one I’ve been attempting to install along the driveway that parallels the white fence that runs along our backyard boundary. Looking over these areas, I decided that the kids were going to have to help me. I knew there would be wailing and gnashing of teeth, one of them might even try the old saying,”My hands won’t work!” which has gone down in family lore when our oldest tried that excuse at the age of 4 when he was told one evening that it was time to pick up his toys!
To my surprise, there wasn’t any wailing, no excuses of aching bodies or appendages that quit working, when I announced my Saturday plan while they ate their pancakes. To ease them into their tasks, I let them work like a relay team, or a wrestling tag team, if you will. One would come out and work with me for 15-20 minutes, then be retired for the next one to come out and do their shift. While working with me, I had an opportunity to pass on little lessons: how to grab that weed and pull it up correctly, how dandelions have a tuber type of root that goes deep into the soil, not to touch the weed with the thorns on the stems-I’d already decided to make those my domain, and with my youngest, how the bulb plants were done blooming but their leaves were still making food with photosynthesis to keep the bulbs nourished until they bloomed again next Spring. The kids worked well for me and we soon had a bed in tip-top shape once again. It looks nice now with the petunias in planters and the new daylillies planted there, with the hostas, planted by the previous owners, filling themselves out.
As I worked on Saturday with my kids I thought about the job of parenting. As a parent, you try to impart life lessons to your kids. You hope that they listen, but some lessons they’ll learn the hard way. One enterprising father, in 1825, wrote a letter to Thomas Jefferson, who at this time in his life, was a retired President, living quietly at his Virginia estate, Monticello. The father informed the former President that he had named his infant son Thomas Jefferson Smith, and he wanted Mr. Jefferson to write his son a letter with advice in it as to living a good and successful life, a letter that his son could learn from and treasure when he grew older. President Jefferson, to his credit, wrote a letter back to Mr. Smith, and also included in it a list of “Rules for Living” that the President tried to follow all of his life. I found his rules interesting and wise and enjoyed reading them to my twin daughters last week during our History lesson-we homeschool our children, grades K-7th, and then allow them to attend 8th grade and then high school, so I am having our twin daughters continue on with math and history lessons this summer before they venture off to 8th grade this Fall.
Here are some of President Jefferson’s Rules: Never put off till to-morrow what you can do to-day. Never trouble another for what you can do yourself. Never spend your money before you have it. Pride costs us more than hunger, thirst, and cold. Nothing is troublesome that we do willingly. When angry, count ten, before you speak; if very angry, an hundred.
The evening after the history lesson on Lewis and Clark, the Louisiana Purchase, and President Jefferson’s rules for living, one of my twin daughter’s asked her twin sister to please go upstairs and get an item for her. I quickly pounced on one of Jefferson’s rules, never to ask someone to do something for you that you can’t do yourself, and reminded our daughter of it. I informed her that there was no reason why she couldn’t run upstairs and get the item herself. She quickly got the message and retrieved the item without her twin doing it for her. When I read historian David McCullough’s book, John Adams, I learned that Thomas Jefferson, while considered a great statesman and President, was horrible when it came to keeping any kind of financial budget! He was always owing payments to business owners, despite warning his two daughters about being wasteful with money and paying one’s bills on time! This made me think that as parents, we have to stay on our toes when imparting wisdom to our kids, and we can talk their ears off with our words, but we must remember that actions do speak louder than words, and the kids are watching us. Do we live by the words of wisdom that we want to impart to the next generation that God has blessed us with?