The Amish Family
© 2012 Reynold R. Kremer
Since the beginning of time, the family has been the center of creation’s society. A husband and wife surrounded by a quiver full of children is precisely what the Lord had envisioned for his people. And the Amish family well serves as an example of that home designed by the Lord.
From little on, Amish children are taught that their role in the family is important. As soon as the youngster is old enough to help gather eggs, carry milk, dust the furniture, or shovel snow, he or she is put to work as an important cog in the wheel of the Amish family. Mother’s train their daughters to become adept in carrying out household chores such as laundry, cleaning, cooking, baking, and sewing. These arts will become necessary for them when they marry and help their husbands raise another generation of Amish. Young boys are taught to handle the horses and perform all sorts of farm chores. It is not unusual to see a seven year old boy holding the reins of two mammoth Belgian mares in the field. Seldom flinching from their daily assignments, these children take delight in helping on the farm so they can provide their small part in the success of the family.
Up to the 1950’s, the Amish family was kept intact through the blessing of the farm. To the Amish, farming was the next best thing to godliness. Families often consisted of 10 or more children because operating a farm demanded work hands to plow, sew, reap, milk, and care for the animals. In addition to the daily chores, farmers also planted large gardens to provide the necessary food to keep such a family healthy and strong. Yet as open land became more and more scarce and expensive, many Amish families found themselves without land and in need of moving or finding employment elsewhere. For instance, in Pennsylvania there has been little land affordable for farms, which has caused many families to move to Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Iowa, and elsewhere. This farm problem has also caused many dads to seek employment in local factories. In northern Indiana, thousands of Amish are employed by the RV industry. In one church district near LaGrange, Indiana, only one family still owns a farm. In fact even that Amish farmer also makes wagon wheels in his shop to supplement his meager farming salary with a second income. All other fathers are lunch pail fathers working in the RV factories. Fifty years ago this change of employment caused a considerable amount of problems for the unsuspecting Amish men. Insurance plans, pensions, strict hours, working with women, and putting up with the foul-mouthed factory workers all took their toll among the Amish laborers. As a result, many of them either moved to jobs in Amish-only factories, or they began household businesses like woodworking, leather working, toy manufacturing or other trades. Unfortunately in some Amish farm communities there are Amish bishops who refuse to allow their members to work their farm land in such a way as to become competitive among the English.
Today there are thousands of home businesses run by the Amish. These range from quilting to raising prize deer, from cooking sorghum to making horse harnesses, and from figuring taxes to building sheds and barns. Banks are usually more than willing to loan the Amish money to begin a new enterprise because they realize that the Amish business is far more apt to succeed than are English businesses. The Amish take pride in their workmanship and spend unlimited hours in perfecting their products and skills.
Children also grow up with a sense of family togetherness. They know they are loved and wanted by their parents and relatives. Unlike most English homes today, Amish children are not the center of attention. Yet the Amish are careful not to heap too much praise and honor on the accomplishments of the children. The family does not revolve around children and their schedules. Rather, children are taught to obey and serve the family in any way they can. Parents, on the other hand, are viewed as the keepers of the family. Their word is to be supreme, and children who do contrary to their wishes are guilty of a sin against the fourth commandment.
The Amish family is also careful to make a clean separation between girls and boys, and between the adults and children.
The love for one’s family does not end with adulthood. Grandma and grandpa are viewed as a special gift to young families. They will not be put out of the house. When grandma and grandpa come to the age that caring for each other in a large house becomes too difficult, a son or daughter builds an addition to their houses called a dawdy house or grandpa house. Consequently as one travels through Amish country one will notice a distinct pattern of houses and added dawdy houses. The help and wisdom provided by grandparents in invaluable to the young families. Here the grandparents will stay until they die. Most of their senior years will be spent assisting in caring for the next generation of children and grandchildren.
It is a joy to see Amish families take such an important role in the raising of their families. Unlike much of the English world where children are set atop pedestals as heroes playing no useful part in the operation of the daily home life, and where the grandparents are hidden in nursing homes, the Amish have faithfully maintained the traditions that make their homes lasting homes.