Being family requires work

Originally Appeared in : 9810-5/10/18

If you had happened upon my grandparent’s home in Mineral Wells, Texas on any Saturday some five decades ago, you would have found my aunts and uncles on their knees with scrub brushes washing the kitchen floors clean.


“We may not live in a fancy home,” my grandma Olga would say, “but the pope himself should be able to eat off these floors.”


Magan greatly admires that woman, and emulates her when it comes to her own children’s Catholic training...and cleaning.


So when some of our bunch had become derelict in their home duties, it made for one hot mama.


By the time supper had been dipped that evening, the only steam rising above the Tater Tot Casserole was from Magan and my ears.


“This is unacceptable,” I said. “When you don’t do your part, and your mother or I have to do it for you, you’re essentially saying you don’t respect us or our time.”


The watershed was voluminous, and immediately following the reckoning children began to act like chamberlains at the Ritz Carlton.


Feather dusters were moving 90-to-nothing, floors were swept and reswept, and Eli and AnnaMarie, contributors but not yet old enough for regular chores, were volunteering like 0-somethings ready to hit the beaches at Normandy. I even had Jesse asking, “May I fill your water bottle?”


Once you become school age in our home, you earn the right to regularly contribute to the upkeep of your room, and portions of the rest of the house.


Some, like six-year-old Jesse, requested his chore list and lanyard at age five and wears it as proudly as Magan wears her Miraculous Medal. Others, like Simon, couldn’t tell you where their lanyard was last seen, or whether or not many of the chores kept within had been completed at all.


That usually results in a litany of, “Have you made your bed?” “Did you sweep the floor?” “Have you fed the cats?” (Magan has said Simon is like a tornado or hurricane. “If you’re looking for him, just look around the house and there will be a path of toys, junk and undone chores that will lead you straight to him.”)


It’s an imperfect system for an imperfect world, for sure. The main goal, however, isn’t to hound them to death about making their beds, or to expect Pope Francis to eat veal cutlets on our “It has a touch of pink? Really?” tile floor: It’s showing our children they shouldn’t take for granted the blessings God has placed in their lives.


We also want them to understand that being part of a family requires real work, both in keeping up their physical homes but also in keeping up their spiritual and emotional houses.


Anytime we don’t do our parts, somebody else ultimately is left doing double-duty, and that’s not a fair or righteous place to come from when we consider that being part of a family is a vocation no different than the priesthood or sisterhood.


Saint Pope John Paul II made it clear that a family’s success and happiness is directly correlated to each individual’s level of sacrifice towards each other.


“To maintain a joyful family requires much from both the parents and the children. Each member of the family has to become, in a special way, the servant of the others.” That statement has since found a semi-permanent place onto our master bathroom mirror.


The book of 1 Timothy says as much warning, “Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”


In their defense, our children do a wonderful job (most days) of adhering to Magan’s immaculate conceptions on home order and cleanliness, which thankfully has made conversations on my way home from work much more pleasant.


Just please nobody tell her about the princess ring I found on the foyer rug, or the dismembered Lego men I stepped on in the boys’ room.


Otherwise, the ghost of Olga’s past will have us all on our hands and knees with toothbrushes scrubbing those off-pink tiles, and a possible invitation for Bishop Hartmayer to dine “criss-cross applesauce” will be headed to the mailbox.


Jason Halcombe has five sons and two daughters. He and his wife, Magan, are members of Immaculate Conception Church, Dublin.


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