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David Kersh

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Biblical Tips for Getting your Kids to Pick up the Towel from the Floor

Posted: 04/ 2/2012 12:50 pm

Is there anything in the Bible to help parents get their kids to pick up their towels from the floor after they take a bath or shower?

So far, my wife and I have done okay for ourselves without organized religious instruction for our three sons. We have managed to get the ethical and metaphysical stuff down without traditional religious concepts. As such, our kids have become committed secular humanists who can exist peacefully and joyfully with a scientific explanation of the universe and have no need for religion to be able to love their neighbors as themselves (though our noisy neighbors are hard to love).

But we have been unable to get the job done when it comes to the practical stuff like getting them to pick up their towels from the floor after they take a bath or a shower. No matter what we do, it goes in one ear and out the other.

It was out of desperation that I went over to the bookshelves and grabbed my dusty Torah. God knows the last time I opened the book! I figured there would be a word or two to provide my wife and I with guidance and/or consolation for our domestic dilemma.

Granted, I could have taken the easy road, skipped the reading and settled on the cliché catch -all: God Will Come Down and Kick your Butt if you Don't Pick Up the Damn Towel. But I wanted to be specific and give the text a chance. Plus somehow I sensed that sentence wasn't going to cut it and get the job done, as the fear factor does not work at home these days.

So I grabbed my copy of the Torah. I was disappointed to find that there was no mention of towels in the opening creation story. It seems God was more focused on the big picture and pretentious cosmological issues like setting in motion the world and making a name for himself than in addressing practical issues like helping parents get their kids to pick up their towels after a bath or shower.

The same can be said as we move forward to the Adam and Eve story. The two of them were too busy dealing with serpents, screwing up eating apples and running for cover. By the time the kids appear on the scene, Cain and Abel present the reader with challenging life and death moral issues, and there isn't much space there to discuss towels. From a narrative perspective, it just did not fit into the story.

Now, in terms of Abraham, I am willing to accept that if you are worried about whether you should sacrifice your son Isaac because God is telling you to, your mind will probably not be focused on mundane domestic issues like keeping the house tidy.

As for Noah, I doubt the Ark had any showers and dealing with all the animals kept his hands full. Ditto: no towel talk. With Jacob, having his son Joseph sold to slavery by his own brothers makes everything else seem trivial. And, when it comes to Moses there were no showers in the desert. Plus, God did not mention picking up towels in either the first or second versions of the Ten Commandments.

In Numbers, there is all this boring stuff about nakedness, sacrifices, goats and sheep, but again no tips about how to get your kids to pick up their towels after taking a bath or shower.

I did, finally, towards the end (figures!) come across the following passage in Deuteronomy. It is related to disciplining children who do not listen to their parents, and seems close to what I was looking for:

If a man has a wayward and defiant son, who does not heed his father or mother and does not obey them after they discipline him, his father and mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his town at the public place of his community. They shall say to the elders of his town, "This son of ours is disloyal and defiant; he does not heed us. He is a glutton and a drunkard." Thereupon the men of his town shall stone him to death. Thus you will sweep out evil from your midst; all Israel will hear and be afraid.

Minus the glutton and drunkard part (substitute it with eating too many donuts and drinking too much soda), this would seem pertinent to my domestic dilemma (I skimmed through the book for the juicy parts and might have missed something more specific somewhere else; did I mention I was not a biblical scholar?). I dare say this solution to my problem is a bit on the extreme side for my taste. I suppose I will have to resort, once again, to more humane methods like taking away an hour or two from playing X Box for every towel on the floor.