Today the kids made 130 sandwiches for Ve’ahavta to distribute from their street outreach van. I tried to step back and let them take the lead, ostensibly because I want them to learn how to organize this kind of endeavour, but mostly because I’m still trying not to overdo things.
I was especially proud of R, who ran the multi-step vegetarian-taco-wrap assembly line. She was pitching in wherever it was needed, moving things along, and telling the others when they should take a five-minute break to give everyone else time to clear the backlogs.
On the way to drop off the sandwiches I told the kids that I’m proud of them for doing the sandwiches. They rejected my praise, pointing out, “Eema, you made us do it. You signed us up and told us we had to.”
“Well, yes,” I said, “That’s true. But Judaism is about action, not faith. Our sages said it was better to do the right thing for the wrong reasons than the wrong thing for the right reasons. It’s results and outcomes that matter most, and you guys absolutely produced results. So I’m proud, and you should be too.”
Back at home, the kids continued to be useful (at our insistence, of course. This isn’t some parenting utopia.) Mr. December taught K how to use the reciprocating saw to cut up the branches that we pruned off the plum tree last weekend. She got a real kick out of it and made a decent-sized dent in the pile of branches.
I roped N into sanding our patio table, which is in desperate need of restaining. Armed with anti-vibration gloves, the Mouse sander, and an extension cord, he went to work at it. Five minutes later he was back inside. “I’m done,” he said.
“No you’re not,” I said, “You didn’t even sand half the table. And you’ve only worked for five minutes! That’s not what we call work! Get back out there. I’ll come out and keep you company.” He reluctantly returned to his job.
Three or four times he declared his intention to be done for the day; three or four times I pointed out that he was fully capable of finishing the job tonight. It ended up taking him maybe half an hour, tops.
In the meantime I assigned E the job of picking up garbage with one of those garbage grabbers. She found all sorts of lovely bits and pieces that must have blown into the backyard from our garbage cans on a windy night. Anyhow, she proudly presented me with a bag of trash when she was done.
Whatever concerns I may have about my kids, at least I can take pride in the fact that they’re capable of contributing real work to better our home and community. Now I just need them to heed me when I say it’s bedtime.