22 Mar “I can’t give up…I don’t know how.”
*We welcome several new contributors to the United Families blog. They will be addressing issues relevant to families and particularly mothers.*
I will always remember the phone call I received several years ago from my older sister. She was going through several extremely difficult experiences: a diagnosis of breast cancer for the second time, demands at work, struggles with her daughter’s choice of life style. Life was overwhelming her. She said that as she was driving to work, she thought, “I can’t handle all this…I’m going to give up.” She drove a bit further and then thought, “How do I give up?” And then she started to chuckle. ‘I can’t give up…I don’t know how.’ Our phone conversation ended with not only much encouragement from me, but also a good laugh.
My memory of that phone call still triggers memories of my mother and the attitudes of life and perseverance we learned under her tutelage. My home life was not perfect by any stretch of the imagination. My parents had eight children…all of us actively involved in all that life offered in our small farming/ranching community in southern Colorado. My dad and four brothers worked long hard hours in the family garage and service station.
Mom and her four daughters shouldered all the housework, yard work, gardening and canning in the fall. We worked long hard hours as well. My parents were responsible and uncomplaining. There wasn’t much money for anything extra, but my mom could sew anything, and my sisters and I appreciated her long, late-night hours at the sewing machine in our behalf. It’s much easier to teach hard work and responsibility in a rural setting because there’s always so much work to do.
So when I married, and my husband and I moved to the “big city,” I was concerned just how I was going to teach my children responsibility and the satisfaction that always accompanies hard work and accomplishment. Because work is important to me, it became important to my children. I was taught how to work because my mom worked right along side me. I determined to teach my children the same way. We did dishes together. We vacuumed and dusted together. I taught them how to clean bathrooms, and how to scrub floors and baseboards the old-fashioned way…on our hands and knees so that they were really clean.
We had a garden and we had lots of trees to trim and flower beds to weed. We washed our cars together, and we washed windows together. I taught them how to make a bed the way my mom taught me. (There is a right way and a wrong way, and I knew the difference.) They learned at an early age the term “elbow grease.” They quickly learned that unless they used “elbow grease” they would probably have to do the work a second time.
To this day my children will say that we painted the outside of our house every spring break, when actually we only painted it twice.
Some of my best memories are those memories of working along side my five children. I knew I had been somewhat successful in my efforts when my oldest son wrote home and told me how exasperated he was with his roommates. He had just scrubbed the kitchen floor and “they walked on it while it was still wet!”
Mothering is certainly not a job for the faint hearted. My children were not always willing participants when activities or friends promised a more exciting experience than chores or planned family work projects. But my efforts have paid off. I have been rewarded numberless times as I have observed each of them during life’s overwhelming demands.
It is my hope that if, or should I say “when,” my children are overwhelmed with life and their knees are beginning to buckle, they too will remember that there is no giving up… ever… not ever. Quitting is simply not an option. We swallow hard, we square our shoulders, we stiffen our backs, and then we begin the really hard work of tackling the problem. Head on… Into the storm. No excuses.
“Let us realize that the privilege to work is a gift, that the power to work is a blessing, that love of work is success.” D. O. McKay