I’ve often considered the fact that my obit might include the fact that I died from filling my 9 millionth sippy cup. The mundane tasks involved with parenting – the shoe tying, the tuck-in-tighting, the stain-fighting, and hair-ponying – should be investigated by the CDC. It’s worse than a sinus infection. The routine, mundane yet necessary tasks of parenting slowly eat us alive. And yet. Could it be possible that we’re making this too hard on ourselves? I have reason to think so. H Boy has been bucking against me in some ways (and he’s wildly helpful in others), which I have taken as a cue to expand the boundaries of what he’s allowed to do. Loosen the reigns, if you will. In our home, with great power comes great responsibility, so what is asked of him has also increased.
On a regular basis, he is making fruit salad and guacamole when the menu requires it. (Many thanks to Miss Melissa at The Overfield School for teaching proper knife skills!) He takes out the trash when the receptacles are full and helps gather all trash on Thursday nights. Note: a week ago I was firmly reprimanded for refilling the trash bags in the kitchen. “That is my job,” he yells. I explained I was only trying to be helpful, but he told me that in the future, I can replace the bag on the black trash can, but not the white one – that’s his job. As helpful as the trash-taking is, that really falls under JJ’s branch of household responsibility, so I had yet to reap the benefits. However, last night I welcomed the little helpers into my world. I had both big kids completely clear the table and put away items, including leftovers into proper containers. And it was taco night, which means that’s kind of a big deal. We put leftover refried beans into a jar, scooped peppers and chicken into our glass version of tupperware and placed the sour cream, guacamole and shells back into the refrigerator. They carried every single item from the table to where it needed to go. They even wiped down the table. And guess how many moans and groans I got? Zero. NONE. They LOVED playing a role in the process. What started out of necessity (people coming over very quickly after dinner) ended in new expectations. We, in our adultly wisdom, think such chores are, well, a chore. But children seem to believe that by including them in the natural jobs of running a home, that we’re actually including them as a significant contributor. And they are! I didn’t need to hover over the leftover-saving as I had my hands in dishwater for the 3412 time of the day. Sometimes we inadvertently believe that “it’s quicker to do it myself” but I say, No! No it is not! While I could probably beat them in a bean-scooping race, it was still quicker because I was doing the dishes instead of scooping beans. When we begin to believe that we’re raising capable children, doors and even windows open so much more frequently. Not only is stuff getting done, but the kids feel valued. They love contributing and showing off their work. They want to be helpful. They want to be included. Why not foster that now, when they crave it, rather than battling it in the lazy teenage years? Parenting is hard enough from a social and emotional standpoint – why do we believe we should bear all aspects of the physical work involved with family life? Why should we die the sippy cup death when they can fill their own water from the spigot in the refrigerator? Now I’m looking at our home life with new eyes. What else have I believed them to be incapable of? How can I give them the lead on specific tasks? Tell me, good readers, what chores do your children thrive with? How do they contribute to their homes?