Anyone who’s worked in a large organization knows how it goes. The trickle down effect – usually for blame or undesirable assignments. The low man on the totem pole ends up with the grunt work, terrible hours, and too little credit. In some environments, it’s accepted as paying your dues. In others, it’s just accepted. Sometimes, teamwork is the hallmark of the business unit.
Is family really so different? Isn’t the family business just like any other human system, with a few special twists?
Delegating and teamwork
I’ve known parents who delegate all the worst household tasks to the kids, once they’re of an age to manage them. With 18+ years of parenting under my belt, I understand what is required to keep the machinery of the family unit going. It’s a complex set of interrelated and moving parts, many of which require more than two capable hands – or heads, for that matter.
In this household, if there’s work to be done, I’ve been the one to do it. Or, I’m doing it alongside my children. And as they’ve matured, sometimes they take initiative and dig in. What I am seeing, increasingly, is the good stuff – compassion and tenderness, surprise assistance. Kindness, trickling down.
It’s raining. Again. And has been, off and on, for weeks. Pine needles and leaves fill the gutters each spring to a point of overflowing. When that happens, water streams into my bathroom, as it did not long ago.
In addition to resurrecting dead computers, one of the first things my son did when he returned from his first year at college was to walk the neighborhood until he found one of the many gardeners who frequent the area. He quickly negotiated a low price to cut our front lawn (dead mower), which he paid for out of his own pocket with hard-earned cash. That got me to thinking that I could negotiate with the same gentleman to get the gutters done. And so I did. It’s a nasty job, and not one that we can do ourselves.
My son, now in Europe, spent many of his days at home with a bottle of Isopropyl Alcohol and an assortment of cleaning solutions, scrubbing as well as organizing and fixing. Oh, he stayed out late with my car, had a few low-key parties, and certainly enjoyed the perks of a college kid home after a long stay away. But there were evenings when I heard laughter from both my boys, together. Something I’ve missed. There, too, his caring was not only pleasant for him, but an act of responsibility. Of maturing. His brother was under considerable stress. Laughter lightened the load.
As for the attention to the yard and encouraging me to get some other things taken care of, that was significant. The gutter cleaning turned out to be very well timed. The next day it poured again, and for days after. My bathroom would have been filled with water, necessitating expensive repairs. Instead, it’s dry.
As I see my son – both my sons – mature, my responsibility to them is to encourage their independence. Their acts of giving, to me, as well as to others.
There were other things my son helped with. Huge things. What they are doesn’t matter here; what they gave to his brother – and to me – I will not forget. In this family unit, the trickle down effect has apparently included compassion, responsibility, and honor.
How little we speak of “honor” these days. We seem to have forgotten the value of an honorable man. And how much I hope I have raised both my sons to be honorable. To look around and pitch in when it needs to be done. To be unselfish, which is not the same as selfless. To keep their word – having given it in service of good choices. To be responsible to family, and respectful to everyone.
Summer travel for teens
My 18-year old begins his summer internship tomorrow morning, in a bustling European city, where he settled into a small flat over this past weekend. I know he will do well. He is a smart, open, focused, and honorable young man.
I am about to see off my younger son for a few weeks, before his summer study program. This is harder – for me – for a variety of reasons. Most of my day will be taken up in the preparations, then the airport, and the long wait until he arrives at his destination. Something else that trickles down – worry – is very much a part of love. And not something we fully comprehend until we, ourselves, become parents.