Saturday I came home mid-morning from helping a neighbor with his irrigation turn. My son met me at the door. Can anyone be as solemn as a kid with an announcement? Solemnly, he informed me he couldn’t plant corn that day.

Now, I had no plans to plant sweet corn (maize for our British readers). If I had, the rain would have cancelled them. (Yes, we irrigate in the middle of rainstorms out here in New Mexico.) My son still felt he needed to inform me, because over the last few days he has gathered a vivid impression that I value his help at planting.

A lot of work my kids do is something like make-work. My wife and I put them to it to teach them. The time and bother they save us in doing the work is at best equal to the time and bother we spend in supervising the work and fixing it after they’re done.

There is some work they do that saves us time, though they are slower and less efficient. Last year my wife put my girls to mowing our grass. The 7-year old, the 9-year old and the 11-year old each have their own 1,000 sq. ft. or so. It takes them awhile, but it gets done.

And there is some work they do that they do as well as we could. My girls feed and water the ducks. They have also been planting corn. The oldest has done it on her own. The other two girls walk along with me and plant it in the cavities I have made.

Last week my little son pestered me to help. I didn’t let him, because he’s only three-years old. But finally he wore me down. I gave him a handful of corn to drop in the planting holes and sent his sisters off to pull dockweed. He kept up. Like with his sisters, his time added to mine was less than my total time would have been if I had done it all, because of the delay in switching back and forth from digging to seeding.

So on Thursday I asked him to plant pole beans for me. We did a 70-ft. row in just about no time. I was very happy. I was strong in my praise. That’s where he got his vivid impression of the value of his work. He doesn’t really know the difference between corn and beans. He does know that there is work he can do as well as his Dad, that his Dad will love him for doing.

What do kids do for us? The main thing is loving us. Happiness is being loved. It turns out, though, that they on certain tasks, here and there, they can do real work for us. That’s happiness too. I feel a rush of affection when I see them with their serious faces on, toiling away for the family good.

I am a kid to a heavenly father. What am I worth to Him? What do I do that He values? Mainly, I love Him. That is my main contribution to his happiness. He does have, however, the occasional rows of beans that I can plant. There are people I can love and reach that He cannot love and reach better than me, because He can only do it within mortal ranges if He is to preserve free will. Some of what I am doing as a friend and husband and father is literally what He would do in my place—not just a childish reflection of His work, not just an awkward attempt that is endearing nonetheless, but literally the work that He would do. The seeds must be planted in the soil. Our lesser stature just means we have less distance to stoop. And He is proud, very proud, of what we do.

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