Late last night as I was putting the finishing touches on my Monday morning blog post, I heard a faint knocking on the front door of my home. When I opened the door I saw no one there, but heard the pitter-patter of little feet fading off in the distance. Something caught my eye on the doorstep. It appeared to be a manifesto of sorts, scrawled on the blank insides of a flattened cereal box with crayons of assorted colors. I have no idea who wrote the message, but whoever did was pretty upset about the talk that Elder Ballard gave at General Conference on Sunday. I can only speculate that they entrusted me with their solemn message due to my participation in the Bloggernacle. I am both humbled and sobered by the opportunity to give a voice to the voiceless, and I feel compelled to publish their statement here in its exact form, without any revision or alteration whatsoever. Here are their words:
In April 2008, Elder M. Russell Ballard, member of the Latter-day Saint Quorum of the Twelve, gave a speech in the semiannual worldwide General Conference in which he stated:
Now you children please listen to me, because there are some simple things you can do to help your mother. You can pick up your toys when you’re finished playing with them. And when you get a little older, you can make your bed, help with the dishes, and do other chores without being asked.
Elder Ballard’s focus on LDS children, and more particularly on the role and duties of children in the home, is a subject close to our hearts.
Who are we? We are children who differ in age, income, race/ethnicity, and grade-level. We are children of mothers and fathers, some with exceptionally large families. Some of us are grandchildren and great-grandchildren. We all play and work, paid or unpaid, both inside and outside our homes. We share many years of church participation among us. In fact, our LDS background is our common denominator.
Several ideas within the body of Elder Ballard’s talk conflict with our inspiration and experience. We are the authors of our own lives, and this is the story we know to be true:
What Children Know
Children should have an equal say in what goes where in the home. We believe parents should abandon their materialistic desire to make every room in their home look like it came out of the pages of a Pottery Barn catalog with spotless, toy-free floors. Homes are for children as well as for parents, and parents must resist the urge to infringe on children’s right to design their own living space by imposing parental ideals about the optimal placement of children’s property.
“Making beds” is an arbitrary and futile exercise. There is no objective evidence to support the notion that having a sheet and blanket neatly spread and tucked around a mattress generates any added utility or is qualitatively any different from allowing bed linens to remain in their natural state after one has arisen from bed in the morning. Parental insistence on making beds that will inevitably become unmade a mere twelve hours later hearkens back to the ancient myth of Sisyphus, who was condemned to roll a boulder up to the top of a mountain each day, only to have it roll back down again once it had reached the top. There is no need for parents to attempt to recreate this hellish scene from Dante’s Inferno in their homes.
Doing dishes is harmful to the environment and is an unjust imposition upon children who would much rather eat with their hands in the first place. We are deeply concerned with the suggestion that children be exposed to harsh detergents and chemicals to clean dinnerware that they never opted to use in the first place. We children are instinctively more environmentally sensitive than adults in that we are naturally inclined to eat with our hands and to use our clothing to catch the crumbs and spills, rather than needlessly dirtying plates, bowls, cups, forks, knives, spoons, and other man-made culinary artifices that then require the consumption of precious natural resources such as water and the use of abrasive artificial cleansers to make them clean. And besides, doing dishes makes our fingers look old and pruney like grandma’s. Ewww!
We should be discouraging child labor, not encouraging it. The evils of child labor took centuries to eradicate in the developed world, and sadly, still exist in less-developed regions. The regressive suggestion that children should be performing more labor is alarming and threatens to undo centuries-worth of courageous campaigning and legislative lobbying against the exploitation of minors.
Children need to be challenged and given opportunities to develop spiritually. We lament the employ of intellectually condescending songs such as “Itsy Bitsy Spider” and deceptive celebrations of horticultural impossibilities such as “Popcorn Popping on the Apricot Tree” in Primary classes all over the world. We also denounce the brainwashing of children with songs like “Give Said the Little Stream,” which subconsciously condition children to give their time, talents, and energy to their parents without any expectation of receiving just compensation in return. Also, singing saccharine melodies with six year-olds stops being cool at age nine, or ten tops.
Violence against children should be condemned, not used as an example of God’s awesome power. We are filled with unutterable sadness by the story of Elisha the prophet, who angrily cursed forty-two children who were harmlessly joking about his bald head, upon which two she-bears came out of the woods and tore the children into pieces. (2 Kings 2:22-24.) This is not a success story. It is the story of a grumpy old man’s failure to take a joke. In a world filled with violence against children, we believe that one of the most important passages in LDS scripture is “suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.” (Mark 10:14.)
We are not fooled by parents’ transparent attempts to make us feel like “grown ups.” We have learned through sad experience that those who are constantly told they are “such a big boy” or “such a big girl” usually aren’t. We also reject the ageist assumption that children want or should want to be adults. The root words for terms like “adultery” and “adult-oriented” demonstrate that being an adult is popularly regarded as a synonym for being a total sleaze ball.
Please consider joining with us in affirmation by posting a comment below on behalf of your children, or on behalf of your inner child. We also invite you to express ideas and suggestions about additional positive declarations of our collective childhood that should be added to the list above.
Children Who Know