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Do Your Parents Want You To Be Responsible?

December 2014

Dear Family and Friends,

How does one tell of another year in a few short pages? How do you condense God’s faithfulness in all life’s details into one concept?

Josiah retold a story from an acquaintance at his college that shows this year’s lesson. The boy went to the doctor. He forgot the doctor’s excuse for his missed classes. His dad lectured him about ‘being responsible.’ The boy asked Josiah. “Do your parents want you to be responsible?” (Was this a bad thing?)

How does a parent make their children responsible? How does a child demonstrate responsibility?

We visited friends with six children under ten years old. As we helped clean, Michael (8) was assigned with their daughter to scrub the dining table. After I inspected and required more work, their daughter whispered to Michael, “You said she wouldn’t look at our work.” Michael continues to learn what he can and cannot get away with. I must be responsible to consistently check everything, every time.

After going to the dentist and faithfully flossing, James described his rewards for his responsibility. “It’s like weedwacking in 100° weather for ten hours. The guy sitting in the air-conditioned house, watching tv gets paid.” He had a cavity. His brother, who does not floss, had none.

Both Josiah and Jonathan had wisdom teeth extracted: the responsibility of age and coming wisdom. Josiah’s surgery fell within days of an infected spider bite, and nailing his finger with a nail gun. Responsibilities of getting rest when necessary. What is necessary in a man’s mind?

Jonathan informed me one day that they now had 100 years represented by their parents’ ages. I said, “That’s 100 years of wisdom and experience that he should listen to.” Jonas quickly added the boys’ years and said that they had 120 years of experience. Jonathan mentioned, “With 20 extra years, they knew more than the 100 year-old parents.” I responded, “That’s 120 years of trial-and-error, wisdom comes from those who age slowly.”

When we were discussing prayer requests, we learned of a 66 year-old who had died. Joey asked the boys if they thought 66 years was old to die. Jonas commented, “Sixty-six is old to live, but young to die.” Maybe wisdom can be found in youth.

I overheard Jonas inform James, “We have children to bring out our character flaws.” Whose character flaws?

Josiah taught Sunday School for three months on Luke’s parables. He stimulated much discussion with our family from his challenging questions. He continues sharpening his skills, teaching a Bible study at a nearby prison. He handles the Word with responsibility.

A friend took us crawfishing. After catching a three gallon pan of them, and eating them in one meal, the boys found how much work it took to supply one delicious dinner.

After fishing, Jacob caught his limit, James caught two fish within ten minutes, Michael brought a few in on his hook, and Josh came home with the biggest. Bringing home dinner can be enjoyable.

Jonas raised the pigs this year. He’s learned from past year’s mistakes and perfected techniques. He even found a way to keep the smell of the barn, at the barn. We ate dinner without smelling barnyard at the table. We are learning responsibility! YAHOO! Boys learning responsibility…they become men.

One day, I watched Michael running the fence line with the neighbor’s dogs on the other side. When I asked Jonas if this was normal for him, he shrugged, “Was he standing or on all fours?”

Another time I caught Michael chasing the chickens. He responded when asked, “It was too windy for them.” Some are still boys.

Josiah retold an incident at work. The little boy told him, “Your parents must be exhausted.” “Why?” “My mom says raising boys is exhausting.” Perhaps that explains a lot.

Jonas started apprenticing with a horse shoer. Every time he leaves, I pray that his head stays un-kicked. To learn responsibility brings danger.

 After two cancellations and a delayed flight, Joey John, Rachel and Emma arrived in March for an all too brief visit. The boys waited in line to hold Emma non-stop until her departure. We love our little grandbaby—did we tell you that? Of course, we love her parents, too. Parenthood’s responsibility... indescribable.

Jonathan learned a different kind of responsibility attending public school his senior year and playing baseball. Responsibility required submission to others’ rules and ways.

Jacob developed his photography skills taking great action photos of Jonathan’s playing. His eyes sparkled when he received money for doing what he liked. Responsibility rewards.

Joshua and Michael played baseball. All the boys helped run snack bar, umpire and prepare the fields. When Michael declared, he “didn’t want to practice,” he found responsibility had a cost. He paid his dues.

When Jonathan’s graduation conflicted with Josh’s game, while Jonas and James worked in IL, we were torn as to who wouldn’t fulfill their responsibility. Somehow responsibilities were met and we watched Jonathan graduate.

Jonas had a job for the boys, but it required moving a tractor. I said, “I’d try.” Jonathan gave me that look and said, “Some things you shouldn’t try, Mom.”

I said, “I’ve done a lot before he was old enough.”

He said, “Mom, it’s like before being a Christian and after—things have changed a lot. We won’t allow you to do that now.” My boys are growing to be men.

With our drought, we had more wildlife problems. After Jacob shot a three-foot long rattlesnake’s head off, he turned to me. “Sure beats chop, chop, chop with your shovel as you hear SSSSSSSSSSSS as it rears its tail behind the shovel.” (That’s how I kill them.) Does responsibility come with a better way?

I retold how my strong-willed boys could rule the world. Josh pipes up and declared, “Wouldn’t it be neat if Joey and I worked together?” Another time after church, Josh confessed that he listened to Dad but thought about something else. Can you do that? What’s the role of a responsible listener?

You can never imagine what Josh is thinking. One day he asked me, “Have you ever wondered if you can kill a person with just what you hold in your hand?” Should I be concerned with his thoughts? Or maybe impressed with his honesty?

While Jonas checked his bee hives, Michael and Josh stayed in the truck with most of the windows shut. (It was a hot day, but they feared the bees.) In spite of the shut windows, several entered the truck. Four stung Michael (It probably didn’t help that he panicked and swatted them.) To watch James and Jonas among the bees you would think that the bees were harmless, specks of dust covering their bodies. To see Michael, you recognize the danger they can truly be. Somehow, Michael will get stung forty yards from the bee hive in a closed vehicle, yet Jonas escapes harm. Does calmness come with responsibility?

Jacob borrowed the neighbor’s ram for his ewe. Out of nowhere that ram butted me from behind and knocked to my knees. He glowered at me until I smacked him with my flip-flop as I ran back to the house. Jonathan, out of concern from his heart, asked, “What is it with you and all the animals, Mom?” (Remember the cow that attacked me on my porch last year?) I wish I knew. The boys control their animals. Could I learn something (or should I just stay in the house)?

We were planning to visit Joey John in Wisconsin and my folks in Indianapolis. Joey couldn’t miss much work. As Jonas heard our discussion, he interjected, “Mom, this is what you’re going to do…You’ll fly to WI for the weekend and meet us in Indy. Dad will come the following weekend.” Plans were made. I’d fly alone, first time since I was married. (The boys assured me that flying alone was much easier than with ten people.) Then I realized that Michael would be left with the boys. One son consoled me, “If Michael doesn’t obey, we’ll just leave him at a gas station and pick him up on the way home.” (This was reassuring?) Jonas recounts the experience. “We had two adventures: one—driving out without Mom and two—driving home with Mom. How should I take that? Responsibility bears fruit.

While away, our water pressure went to nothing. (Jonathan stayed home for baseball.) When we returned, we didn’t have enough water to cover our water pump. We rationed water: only two loads of laundry a day; turning off water while we suds in the shower; letting our garden, yard and landscaping plants die; washing dishes by hand. After several months, friends pulled the pump and re-checked the water level. The water covered the pump and seemed to recover after use. We were reassured that we had water, too late for some plants and my lawn. We continue to conserve with four months before the rains come. Responsibility with what we are given.

This was the second year that our pond was dry. When temperatures hit 100° for weeks at a time, the boys swam at a friend’s pool providing relief from my responsibility.

Last year, you’ll remember James asked daily for a hamster that was miraculously given. It died. Always traumatic for me to have anything die, even when I don’t care for them. James waited a respectful few weeks and asked for two more. On one condition: both must be male. “Of course,” he said. He allowed time for me to adjust into hamster ownership and requested that he ‘borrow’ a mother hamster and her babies, just so he could watch them grow and then return them to the lady who sells them. Joey and I discussed, “He is responsible, why not?” Low and behold, are we surprised? His two male hamsters had six babies. Now we had two sets of babies.

James enjoys his hamsters. He makes ownership look fun. So, Josh wanted one. Now we have learned that some boys are animal caretakers and some aren’t. If you notice, our firstborn, third, fifth,… you get the idea, are more engine and pick-it-up-and-leave-it, rather than daily  animal care and maintenance….while the second, fourth, sixth are nurturing and animal care. Josh is seventh but he hasn’t been given too many opportunities for him to convince himself that he is not animal interested. So we allowed him to get one male hamster. After all, how will he learn responsibility without caring for something? Josh’s hamster was not a male. Are you doing the math, like I am? (You’re probably quicker than I). I told them “NO MORE BABIES. Separate. Separate. Separate. I don’t want babies during the cold winter when they die and I’ll have to cry about them.”

A few mornings later, James asked, “Mom, do you want to see my hamsters?” Usually he’d bring their pink, naked bodies to me to see and I’d say “oh-yes.” Or as they grew hair they would almost look cute and then I could touch them.

When I was too busy to respond, Jonas said loudly, “James, so your hamster had babies again last night…” There are advantages of keeping animals out of a mom’s sight. Does James get away with too many things? Is this acting responsible but not obeying, or is this being responsible only when they obey?

James is my chicken man. I depend upon him for all my egg needs. He monitors how old his chickens are, when they should be replaced, whether he should raise more, and when his roosters must be sold. I rarely hear of his difficulties.

Something was eating James’s cat food, besides cats. The boys hung the cat food and baited a trap. I heard a shot around 7 AM. As the smell lingered, Josh was delegated to dispose of the skunk. All day, it smelled throughout the house. I opened doors and windows’, thinking the smell was stuck in my nose. When I took the boys swimming, it came with us in the car. How could it be so strong? While swimming, the neighbor told me, “It’s Josh.” He swam and the smell was gone. Sometimes, the boys wonder about me…I have all their worries on my mind and can’t handle common sense. Can responsibility pass through the genes?

One of James’s chickens had just hatched a brood of chicks. Something dug under its box at night. I could hear Jonas and James solving the problem. I waited. The next morning, before 6 AM I heard a shot. Problem solved, his chicks were saved. The same day, they found another skunk trapped behind our freezer. Responsible actions. If we don’t get it, it will get those chicks.

James showed his chickens at this year’s fair (Remember last year’s heart ache of preparing but entering in the wrong class?) He placed first, third, and overall third. We continue to learn how to do this fair thing better. Following rules is hard for me…

James purchased a pair of ducks. After one was killed during the night, the other flew off and disappeared. I don’t like this responsibility sometimes…

Jacob brought his sheep home. This sheep escaped the pasture to herd with the dogs. She’d bully the dogs for all their food. Josiah felt that he “lived in a barn”—the dogs ate inside the house while the sheep bleated pitifully from the open doorway.

After telling Jacob, if his sheep got loose one more time, he’d have to sweep the front and back decks of all its droppings every day, he sold it to James. (Remember, he’s fifth born, those aren’t inclined to like caring for the animals). I asked him what made him change his mind. (We had tried to convince him that he wasn’t an animal-loving person.) He smiled and said, he “was learning to be responsible.” He’s switched to working with the dirt bike. He fixed the flat, started it after several years of inactivity. Responsible with where his gifts lie.

Responsibility…how do you teach that? We had just spent the entire day grocery shopping. I had told Michael “No, we weren’t stopping at the dollar store today.” This was an all-day conversation. I was sitting in the car at a gas station when he asked the tenth time. I yelled at him about the ten times that he had asked. As I got out of the car to pay for gas, I saw this man on the other side of the gas pump smiling. He asked me, “How’s your day going, Ma’am?” I blushed crimson, said, “It’s one of those days.” Why can’t I be responsible with my tongue?

When Michael asked James why he never got into trouble, James replied, “I’m an angel sent from heaven to bring cheer to everyone.” Jacob responded, “He was a fallen angel that wasn’t allowed to stay in heaven.” Either way, he’s responsible enough to stay just out of trouble.

After dinner, I asked Josh, “What’s in your hair?” Jonas looked and said, “It’s a dead fly.”

“How did it get there?”

Jonas suggested, “It hatched from an egg, grew through the larvae and pupae stage and lived and died a ripe old age there.” Don’t you wonder where they get these responses?

When I wonder if the boys even listen to me, Jonas’s words haunt me. He had all the parental sayings and inflections down. He proceeded to demonstrate, “Stick your lip out any more and a bird will poop on it…” Why do they remember all the bad things?

Jonathan informed me at my funeral they will be reciting all the things I’ve said for hours. How should I take that?

Instructing the boys about listening, Joey asked James, “Are you listening to me?” (This said while he’s looking directly at him.) James asked, “Oh, are you talking to me? I didn’t think your eyes were making contact with me.” Does communicating come with responsibility?

The boys look me in the eye when I’m speaking to them. Once while I was speaking to Michael at the table, he closed his eyes and covered them with his hands. Does that mean I’m not talking to you? Responsibility cannot be crammed into them.

Michael does enjoy talking as we eat. Once he said, “I hate it when something gets lost in my mind.” I do, too.

Jacob went deer hunting again with friends. The preparation takes more time than the actual hunt but his memories last longer than a lifetime. He came back with no deer, but grew several inches. He asked if he could be called in my book “Deer Slayer.” I mention him here. He does have goals.

With changes at work, Joey’s schedule has increased. Often times he leaves for work before 6 AM returning after 7 PM. Working at four different offices demands flexible scheduling. He continues with the army reserves, jumping from airplanes. Life stays busy. Fulfilling responsibilities can get hard.

All I do is make sure the boys are fed, clothed and sometimes clean. Scheduling challenges me, especially with more drivers who wander away from home. Keeping responsibilities simple helps keep me focused.

Writing has taught me:

  • writing is more complicated than I thought
  • grammar rules have changed (i.e. pronouns for God are no longer capitalized)
  • formatting is beyond me (but thanks to Joey John, I have help)
  • technology helps only if the exponential learning curve is mastered
  • publishing may be possible
  • waiting is the process (currently waiting for my cover design)
  • marketing books requires more than I know
  • everyone wants to be an author, but not everyone is a writer
  • internet is a black hole where you shout to be heard above everyone else, but are only found by the grace of God.

My book Until My Name Is Known should be available by Easter, 2015.

My weekly articles at sonyacontreras.com require responsible study after much prayer.

Joey took me away from my responsibilities for our anniversary. After making every drop of water count at our house, it was an oasis. When we returned, the boys asked why we returned so soon. Makes me wonder, why did we?

For my birthday, Joey planned a weekend hiking by the beach and finishing sentences that didn’t get interrupted. Hard to return to life with responsibilities, especially when the boys tell me—‘back so soon?’

Joey and I began the adoption process for Michael. God has prepared receptive hearts for this step. I feel on display and inadequate to be evaluated as ‘mom’ for anyone. The appraisal continues. Will I be judged a responsible parent?

After Michael spoke to the social worker and couldn’t remember their questions, he told the boys, “You don’t know how hard it is to be adopted.” Responsibility, even when it’s hard.

What defines you as responsible?

Do you magically become responsible? Or are you responsible every time you do what you ought to do, not what you want to do? Isn’t that what responsibility is… doing the right thing, because it’s right?

“Do your parents want you to be responsible?”

Of course.

But if that’s all that my boys do, I have failed.

The world is filled with nice, responsible people.

We can never live responsible enough to please God.

Christ came not to live a good, responsible life. He came to fulfill the will of His Father, to give Himself for our sins.

Only through accepting Christ’s offering can we live pleasing to God.

I want my boys to live responsibly unto God, so they will be pleasing to God. Isn’t that why we choose to be responsible?

May you accept God’s offering, enabling you to live acceptable and responsible unto Him,

Joey, Sonya, Josiah, Jonathan, Jonas, Jacob, James, Joshua, and Michael

 

 

 

 

 

 

Author of Biblical fiction, married to my best friend, and challenged by eight sons’ growing pains as I write about what matters.

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