Manipulating Children

Children rely upon the wisdom, compassion, and protection of adults to face the big world they live in. Bold Innocence by Steve Henderson; licensed open edition art print at Great Big Canvas.

When our children were younger, they were phenomenally popular with various women in the church — important women, you know, deaconesses, and wives of commanders and the management branch, a section of the priestly Pentagon none of us in my family were allowed into because we perversely never attended Sunday School.

(If you’ve always wanted to be a deaconess but aren’t yet, be aware that Sunday School attendance is a hidden, but mandatory, requirement. My college friend years ago was allowed be the Deaconess of Windows because of her acceptable attendance rate, although she hit a glass ceiling, or, er, window, when it came to progressing to the highly coveted upper dais of leadership: the Deaconess of Baby Showers.)

But back to the women who loved my children: they, the Deaconess set, allowed my urchins to play with theirs because mine, the urchins, knew how to do chores and clean bedrooms.

Now in our household, there was a rule: no friends over until your chores were done, and while the bedrooms didn’t have to be pristine (we eat off plates in the dining room, not off the carpet in the bedrooms), the essential work had to be done before playtime began.

When guests are over, that is the time to enjoy the guests, not put them to work. Take Time for Tea poster at Steve Henderson Fine Art

But in the Deaconess set, the rules were different: upon arriving over to “play,” our children were told that the Deaconess’s Exemplary Child was not allowed to do anything until he/she had cleaned the bedroom, mown the lawn, or mucked out the horse stall (and yes, this one is real).

Obviously unable to admit the truth to themselves, the Deaconess set was smart enough to see that my kids worked and theirs didn’t, and if the bedroom was going to get cleaned, the lawn mown, or the horse stall mucked, then it was going to take a lot of work from one of my urchins before this was done.

And danged if my kids didn’t always fall into it.

“Why didn’t you call us to pick you up?” we asked afterwards.

“Because that would have been rude,” they always replied. “I was their guest.”

Even now I hit my head on the desk, over and over again, at the thought of it all.

While chores can be mixed with fun, this is a delicate combination. Lilac Festival, original oil painting by Steve Henderson.

Later, now that the kids are grown, they have told us that one reason they complied was because of us — knowing of our lowly status in the mop of saints, they were concerned that the relationships we had with the parents of their friends (many of whom were actually decent friends, with just clueless progenitors) would be endangered if they did not comply.

“True friendships are stronger than that,” we told them.

Well, so now our kids know, and they have years of work experience cleaning other people’s bedrooms and mowing other people’s lawns, and the Deaconess set lives on.

For years, I actually sort of wanted to be a deaconess, because, like my college friend, I know how to throw a fun baby shower with games that don’t bore or embarrass other people, but I have moved on; my kids have grown up; and the tenuous relationships we had with the parents of our children’s friends, are long gone.

But I have some advice for the Deaconess set, concerning other people’s children:

Genuine relationships last. Seaside Story by Steve Henderson; licensed, open edition art print at Great Big Canvas.
  • When you invite a child over to play with your child, do not put the guest child to work.
  • If you need a good example for your own child, don’t rely upon another person’s child.
  • Any child invited into your home is just that, a child, and especially if he/she has been raised in a church environment, he has had pressed upon him the importance of respecting his elders. Do not abuse that sense of conscience.
  • Kids’ rooms do not have to look like army barracks, and the strength of their Christianity, or yours, is not dependent upon the cleanliness of your house.

And finally, and most importantly, this one to all of us: we have more to learn from children than they have to learn from us, because “. . . anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” (Mark 10:15)

I think that maxim is asking for trust, humility, dependency, and love, which, fortunately, are attributes we can all seek to achieve, whether or not we are deaconesses (or attend Sunday School).

Licensed, open edition prints are an affordable way to put quality artwork on your walls. Mesa Walk, original oil painting sold; licensed print at Great Big Canvas and Light in the Box.

All of the artwork in my articles is by my Norwegian Artist, Steve Henderson, and is available in multiple sizes, formats, and price ranges (for $10.95 you can buy a poster at the Steve Henderson Fine Art website):

Find more of Steve Henderson’s Art in the following online venues:

Manufacturers and retailers — license Steve’s work through Art Licensing

This article is linked to The Chicken ChickAlderberry HillMopping the Floor, The Character CornerGrowing HomeAdorned from AboveWalking RedeemedA Wise Woman, Manipulating ChildrenRaising HomemakersLive Laugh Rowe, Jenny MullinixGraced SimplicityEnchanted Homeschooling,

4 Responses

  1. Bobbi

    Wow, some people amaze me. I for one agree with you that it isn’t a child guest place to clean another persons house. I also can’t believe people asked someone else child over to muck stalls.

    Stopping by from the link up.

    1. Thank you, Bobbi. This scenario happened so many times, with multiple children, that we were beginning to think that we were the strange ones!

      Thank you for dropping by, visiting, reading, and commenting. You are welcome back any time and all the time. — Carolyn

  2. I can’t imagine doing that to someone else’s child! Your children are so sweet though, they not only cleaned bc they felt it rude not too, but didn’t want to ruin your friendship with the parents..well done, Mom!

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