Listening to Ourselves

July 24, 2014 § 9 Comments

Snitchin'

Snitchin’

The boys are due home today, necessitating a whirlwind clean-up of all our unflattering habits. Gone the empty pork rind bags Penny dropped at her feet once the last crumbs had disappeared down her insatiable maw. Gone the crumpled Genny Cream Ale cans, all 37 of them. Gone the piles of flaked ash from the stogies we shared nightly, propped up in bed while we alternated between Fox News and Duck Dynasty on the widescreen television that has since been returned to WalMart from where we purchased it four days ago. And the Fruit Loop boxes? Not merely recycled, but burned beyond all possible recognition. We shall not be found out.

It has been quiet around here, to be sure. And busy. Over the past year or so the boys’ helpfulness has snuck up on us, and we did not fully appreciate how much they contribute to family and farm until they were not here to contribute it. We decided early in our parenting careers that we would not mandate any chores but those necessitated by Fin’s and Rye’s own animals.Our theory was that by not forcing them to help but instead by modeling our own appreciation of the work at hand, they would slowly come to embody that appreciation themselves and contribute of their own free will. We know too many adults whose memories of rural youth are tainted by the daily grind of chores they hated.

For years we struggled with this decision. Often, we second-guessed it, if only because for a while there, our theory seemed not to hold much water. It’s not that the boys wouldn’t help in times of obvious crisis. The fellas have always been drawn to tasks demanding urgency: Escaped cows, a mired plow truck, and so on. But until recently, their participation in the workaday chores – rolling up the sides on the greenhouses, for instance, or stacking firewood, or collecting eggs, or the million-and-a-half other tasks that have become as natural a part of our life as breathing – was less than gracious and at times Penny and I have thought ourselves fools. Soft. Naive. Perhaps even worse, guilty of failing to instill a proper work ethic in our children.

For reasons I do not fully understand, the boys have begun to contribute of their own volition. Or, at the very least, they have begun responding to our requests for assistance with something approaching good cheer. Indeed, earlier this summer it got to the point where we consciously stopped asking for their help, out of fear we were pushing our luck. Maybe our original theory was correct: That by modeling appreciation of honest labor and equanimity in the face of the occasional overwhelming nature of this life, we could instill these qualities in our sons. Or maybe the boys are simply developing a conscience; they see how we bumble and sputter, and they feel too damn guilty not to help. Yikes. I sure hope it’s not that.

When it comes to parenting and our children’s education and pretty much everything else having to do with our small life on this small hill, we don’t have any grand plan. True, we think a lot about our relationship with our boys and how to make it as strong and healthy as possible. We think a lot about cultivating autonomy, pleasure, and appreciation in our day-in, day-out lives. But mostly those thoughts lead us to a place of acting from our guts, rather than our intellects. From intuition, I guess, though that’s a fancier notion than I’m entirely comfortable with.

Sometimes I think we all know more than we think we know, but we allow the ceaseless noise of the world interfere. We let the constant clamor of expert analysis and metrics of progress and other people’s opinions stifle the quiet knowledge we all hold. For all the debate over the immersive nature of modern technology and whether it makes us smarter or dumber or thinner or fatter or happier or sadder, I often wonder if the real issue isn’t even being addressed: We don’t even have the opportunity to listen to ourselves anymore.

By-the-by, I’m doing a reading at Bookstock tomorrow. Ya’ll should come on down. 

§ 9 Responses to Listening to Ourselves

  • Martha Caldwell-Young says:

    “Sometimes I think we all know more than we think we know, but we allow the ceaseless noise of the world interfere. We let the constant clamor of expert analysis and metrics of progress and other people’s opinions stifle the quiet knowledge we all hold. For all the debate over the immersive nature of modern technology and whether it makes us smarter or dumber or thinner or fatter or happier or sadder, I often wonder if the real issue isn’t even being addressed: We don’t even have the opportunity to listen to ourselves anymore.” . . . . Yes. I’m discovering I have to consciously chose to stop listening to the world and to stop listening to the stories my mind incessantly spins about the world, to consciously chose silence and to practice listening. I’m not yet sure what I’m listening for or what will come of it, but more and more, I find I do want to listen.

  • amy says:

    so good. we are the same way. and finally beginning to see the fruit of it in our older kids. it’s pretty rad. i like you and penny more and more every time i come over here :)

  • Eumaeus says:

    The opportunity to see the truth is present in every moment. <3
    be sure to say 'what'd ya bring me?' with a giddy expression when they return!

  • Nobody knows your kids better than you do. Matter of fact, most likely few know their kids as well as you do, since you are with them every day.

  • ncfarmchick says:

    I stopped watching or reading the news about 15 or so years ago for this exact purpose. I couldn’t even decide what I thought about some issue because all the opinions and noise of others were swirling around in my head. While it confuses some people I know, I am proudly “out of it” regarding most happenings in the world unless my husband chooses to inform me (he reads selected news sites on the internet.) I have come to realize the dimensions of my sphere of control and chose to put my energy to things where I can make the most difference (which is pretty much nothing one would find on the news.) I think you have spoken about this idea before.
    Love your thoughts about the boys and farm chores. We have pretty much come to the same decision for our boys. They are now in that wonderful toddler love-to-imitate stage so they like to help (and not in the condescending way most adults describe their “little helpers” – they actually, really help. No one can catch a chicken better than they can!) I am pretty sure this level of helpfulness won’t last or, at least, their interest in helping will come and go in waves. That’s OK and we’d much rather take the long view and encourage them to enjoy this life even if they change directions at some point. Thanks for another great post! Hope you enjoyed those beers and pork rinds. Ha!

  • amy says:

    Ben, we taught our kiddos how to work–even how to do things that they didn’t want to do–but we were always careful to be out there with them, working also. I know of too many grown-ups who learned to hate work because their parents sent them to do it, instead of working alongside. My kids learned to work hard at things they’d rather not do–and to have the proper spirit at it. More or less. And I was always there with them, teaching, chatting, laughing, tying those strings. And every grown up kid we have so far (four) have come back to us and thanked us for teaching them to work. So many of their generation, they say, don’t have a clue about how to work, so they stand out in their colleges and workplaces. Another thing I was careful to teach my kids (and this has been a blessing) is when they were done with one chore, they had to come find me and ask “Anything else, Mom?” You may not agree with this, but it was just amazing to have a kid come up and ask if there’s anything else they can do for you. And I did have to teach this. And employers in our area have come up to me and said “can’t believe your kid . . . he came up and asked me ‘anything else I can do?'”

  • reneeliamrhys says:

    Ben , thanks again for a thoughtful post…and as Amy also re- iterated , the power of example and observation is huge.
    Glad to read you and Penny had a bit of quiet relax time in the evenings together.
    From Sydney, Australia

    http://www.Alexa-asimplelife.com

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

What’s this?

You are currently reading Listening to Ourselves at Ben Hewitt.

meta

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,003 other followers