Why Obey?

By Debbonnaire Kovacs

Susannah May Farmer was glad summer vacation had finally come.

“It’s not that it makes that much difference to me,” she explained to her two new friends. “Homeschoolers don’t really have vacations. But the other kids have more time now.”

“What do you mean, homeschoolers don’t have vacations?” Madison asked.

“Well, I shouldn’t say that, because some homeschoolers do school just the way they would if they were in a public school, with a schedule, and recess, and vacations. But most of us believe all of life is education, and it starts when you’re born, or maybe even before, and stops when you die. We’re always learning something. It’s not on a schedule.”

“You mean you have to go to school all year?” Mindy demanded.

Susannah laughed. “Yeah, but my school’s fun. Well, not all of it. I don’t like math that much. But even math’s more fun when Mom does things like make me figure out how many concrete blocks we need for a foundation for a new chicken house, or how many pounds of green beans make how many quarts, once they’re canned. Stuff like that.”

Mindy and Madison shuddered. “How do you stand it? We wait for summer to start living. Imagine never getting a break from yucky old school!”

Susannah didn’t say anything. It was times like these that made her wonder if she and the other girls could really be friends at all. She had been so excited when two sisters, ten and twelve, came to stay for a whole month with their grandparents, who lived down the road from the Farmers. At first, the three girls had a great time together. Mindy and Madison cooed over Susannah’s goats, took turns riding the horses, and even thought her little brothers were cute. The problem was, Mindy and Madison soon got bored with everything. They didn’t like to help feed or care for the animals, they got mad when Susannah wouldn’t let them gallop the horses, and they certainly weren’t interested in helping to baby-sit.

Today, Susannah had come to their grandmother’s house to visit. She didn’t want the day to be ruined by an argument, so she changed the subject. “What are we going to do?”

“Come up to our room. We have our own TV and VCR and DVD player.”

They went upstairs to a room with slanted ceilings, much like Susannah’s own. Her eyes widened as she looked around. One whole wall was filled with an entertainment center as big as the El-Charifs’.

Mindy giggled as she shut the door. “Keep the volume down. We don’t want Gran to hear!”

“Hear what?”

Madison turned on the TV and put a video in the player. “We sneaked some of Gran’s movies up here. She’d kill us if she knew!”

Oh, no. What now? Susannah remembered something her mom had said when she’d used the same expression. “I doubt she’d kill you. She’d just be hurt and disappointed.”

Mindy and Madison stared at her.

“Then she shouldn’t have made such a dumb rule!” Mindy said.

“What are you, a baby?” Madison demanded.

Susannah’s palms were starting to sweat. “No, and neither are you. We’re all old enough to obey.”

“Obey! She is a baby! Who obeys?” Madison laughed.

“Old people are always stuffy. If kids did everything they said, we’d never have any fun!” Mindy complained.

Susannah’s heart sank. Didn’t these girls even love their grandmother? If they did, it didn’t show.

“Look,” Mindy said. “It’s not a dirty movie, or anything. See?” She showed Susannah the cover. It was a popular movie Susannah had been a little curious about, herself.

“Why doesn’t your grandmother want you to see it?”

“She says it’s too adult for us.” Madison laughed. “She thinks we’re babies too!”

“Then I think she probably has a reason,” Susannah said. “She loves you, right? And you love her? You don’t want to hurt her feelings.”

Madison stopped laughing and looked at Susannah seriously for the first time. “Do you do every single thing your mom tells you to?”

“I try to,” Susannah said.

“Even if she tells you something dumb?”

“Just because I don’t always understand, doesn’t mean it’s dumb. She loves me and does the best she can to raise me. I love her, so I trust her enough to obey. That shows my love for God too.”

“For God? What’s God got to do with it?” Mindy asked.

“God wants us to obey our parents. Grandparents too.”

“You’re really strange, Susannah,” Mindy said. “Are we going to watch this movie or what?”

“I’m not,” Susannah said quietly.

They looked at her as if they thought she was from a different planet. “Look!” Susannah said, pointing. “There’s a movie I really like! Let’s watch that one, OK?”

“Oh, all right,” Madison said. Mindy pouted, but Susannah was relieved.

On her walk home, she thought the whole scene through again. She felt sorry for Mindy and Madison. Did they feel so scornful and indifferent about their parents too? She thought of the times her mother had told her to do something that hadn’t made sense to Susannah. Would she try to obey if she didn’t love and trust her mother?

It made her think of a discussion they’d had in primary class. Ms. Kimoto had said that love and obedience always went hand-in-hand. “Without one, the other is always weakened,” she’d said. Susannah tried to imagine love without obedience, or obedience without love.

Susannah came in the door and saw Mom vacuuming the carpet in the living room. She put her arms around her mother and squeezed. Mom squeezed back. “Hi, honey. How was your day?”

“I’ll tell you all about it while I do the vacuuming,” Susannah said, taking the handle of the vacuum cleaner. “And Mom? I love you!”

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