My children had not been doing their chores. Again.
I glared around at the house, sniffing through my stuffed up sinuses, tracking down litter boxes in need of cleaning. In the process I discovered empty cat food dishes, and hidden stashes of dirty dishes left mouldering and forgotten in corners. Teenagers. As sick as I was, the cats were demanding assistance, so I started in doing the boys’ chores. I was not in a pleasant mood.
"I’m going to give them an ear-full when they get home. Leaving all of this for me to do."
As I sat in the floor of my son’s room, cleaning the litter box for his precious cat, I was reminded of the last time my mother did my chores for me. I was already an adult, a working home-school mother with two young children. She’d come into my bedroom while I was away at work and discovered the litter box needed changing. When I got home, she let me have it. How could I leave that for her? What was I thinking letting that get into such a horrid state? I remember staring at her and thinking, "what were you doing in my room?" And when she screamed, "What have you been doing that you can’t take time to clean this cat box?" I specifically didn’t point out that I’d been working to support all of us. A very tiny part of me was grateful that she’d helped me…because the box did need cleaning, but she’d never given me the time to say that.
And as I sat on the floor of my son’s room, I realized that my thought patterns had been going down well-worn paths. What HAD my children been doing instead of their chores? Both were sick. My 17 year old has been starting his own business and had worked hard the last few days while still going to school. The 16 year old whose box I was cleaning, is finishing up his first year of college. He’s tired. Both of them deserved a little sympathy from me.
Then I remembered something else. My health has been a roller coaster for some time. Those boys have done more than their share of the housework, cooking, cleaning, caring for their little sister. They rarely complain. The son with the needy cat-box was the same one who had sacrificed a weekend with friends to stay with me in the hospital so I could have my newborn with me when I was hospitalized. I remembered his cheerful company during those hard days. He hadn’t complained about missing out. He had slipped down to the cafeteria and smuggled chocolate into my room.
Just that morning, I’d read in my devotions as Jesus was explaining the golden rule. Was I treating others the way I wanted to be treated?
I laughed. No. What would it have meant to me if my mother had just cleaned the box and said nothing? Would I have noticed? Definitely. As I cleaned the box, fed and watered the beasts, collected dishes and got some of the obvious problems back under control, I was overwhelmed by the love I have for my children and reminded of the love they’ve shown to me on a thousand different occasions. Yes, they shirked their chores, but it wasn’t out of spite for me. Both were probably a little upset that I’d had to do them…and yet I hope they weren’t.
I didn’t even mention to one son that I’d done his chores. To the other, all I said was, "I fed your cat. I love you." I only said that much because I knew he’d remember in the middle of the night in a panic. He loves that cat.
This morning, when I got up I noticed that all of their chores were done, and done well. Treating others the way you’d like to be treated. Hm. Jesus was such a radical, but He sure knew a lot about love. I’m glad I have more than my earthly parents’ examples to follow.