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My daughter was in her mid-teens—those years when young people think that their parents don’t know too much. She chafed at the requirements of home, having to do chores, having a set time for bed, and eating what everyone else in the family ate instead of getting to choose for herself. She also felt that with all of her siblings, there were just too many people with too many personalities to deal with. She often told us she couldn’t wait to get away from home.
“Maybe I could find another place to live for the summer,” she said.
“Like where?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” she replied. “Maybe I could go stay with Grandma. Maybe I could help her with her garden. It would give me a chance to get away from home.”
The grandma she was talking about was my mother, and I was wondering if my daughter really knew what she would be getting herself into. My mother is a no-nonsense woman. As I thought about it, I wondered if that might be just what my daughter needed. I decided to talk to my brother. When I told him about what my daughter wanted, he laughed.
“One of my daughters got sick of everything at home and pushed us to let her go stay with her grandma, too,” he said. “We finally let her.”
“How did it go?” I asked.
“You know Mom,” he said. “Life is about work and getting things done. Just because someone is staying with her doesn’t mean she has time to sit around and visit. It just means she has more help to get the things done that she needs to get done.”
My brother said that for a day or two, his daughter didn’t say too much about it. But it wasn’t long before she let him know that she wanted to come home.
He told me his daughter said, “Grandma just keeps me working all of the time. Coming home will be like going on a vacation.”
“How long did she end up staying there?” I asked.
“She made it almost four days,” my brother said. “But on the day she called to come home, she said she had been assigned to pick the thorny gooseberries and that was the last straw.”
I laughed. I love gooseberry pie, but picking the thorny things is one of the greatest trials of life. After visiting with my brother, my wife and I decided to let our daughter go stay with her grandmother. It was early spring, so there were not any berries to pick. But I knew my mother would find something to keep my daughter busy.
After almost a week had gone by, my daughter called and said she was ready to come home. When I picked her up, I asked her how it went.
“Oh, it was okay,” she said.
“Just okay?” I asked. “What did you do?”
“The easier question is what didn’t I do?” she replied. “I cleaned out raspberries until my arms were all scratched up. I weeded, dug grass out of the garden, mowed the lawn, and trimmed the trees. And to top it off, today I had to clean dead branches out of the gooseberries. I think their thorns are about an inch long!”
I smiled. Those were some of the things I did when I was young. I appreciated my mother teaching my daughter to work. The next time I visited with my mother, I mentioned it.
She just shrugged. “I don’t expect anything from your children that I don’t expect from anyone else. I don’t run a hotel, you know. If someone comes to visit, they are only guests for three days, and then they’re family and have to pitch in. But in the case of your children, they are already family and should pitch in from the beginning.”
My mother has now sold her farm, so my children won’t be going there anymore, but on this Mothers’ Day, I am grateful for a mother who helped teach my children how to work just as she and my father taught me.