Those words are immortalized in my family. When I was just 3 years old and my mother was asking me why I hadn’t made my bed after she had told me to, I uttered (probably with my hands on my hips), “I know it’s important to you, mom, but it’s not important to me.”
My mom says she knew she was in deep trouble at that moment.
A couple years ago, I had a similar sinking feeling after an encounter with Zoe. At the time I believe she was 6 or 7.
Zoe came in and saw the glass cleaner on the counter. She asked if she could clean the glass doors, which I had cleaned just a little while earlier. I told her she could. She then proceeded to go around cleaning every piece of glass and mirror that she could find downstairs. She came back into the kitchen and asked what else she could clean. I told her she should clean her bathroom mirror upstairs.
She said, “How much are you going to pay me?”
“How much are you going to pay me for all the work I’m doing? You have to pay me.”
I said, “But you volunteered!”
She said, “I did all this work, so you need to pay me.”
I said, “Fine. I’ll pay you a dollar.”
She said, “A dollar?!? For ALL this work?”
“Well how much do you think is fair, Zoë?”
“Fine. 5 dollars.”
I said, “How about you go clean the mirror and then I will decide if it’s worth 5 dollars.”
She stomped upstairs and about 2 minutes later I heard a loud thump, followed by crying. I ran up to see what had happened, and she’d fallen off the counter and hurt her knee. I carried her downstairs to the couch, got her an icepack, and handed her the TV remote. She looked up at me with tears in her eyes and said, “You’re still gonna pay me right?”
“Housework can kill you if done right.”
― Erma Bombeck
The topic of household chores has been on the forefront of my mind the past couple weeks. Last week I wrote a blog about motherhood. ( http://kbjackson.com/am-i-a-good-mom-an-honest-answer-to-a-scary-question/ ) Sydney surprised me by telling me that she wished that I had given her more responsibilities, had more structure and discipline.
Of course I want the help. I’m no martyr. I don’t love doing laundry. I am as grossed out by other people’s dirty dishes as anyone in this family.
I have 5 other people in this house who are perfectly capable of helping me. Of course, I also have 5 people in this house who have eyes and should be capable of seeing what needs to be done, but apparently they need to be asked. Sydney told me that she was willing to help as a kid, she recognized the need, but she wanted me to ask her. I told her that I wanted people to step up without being asked, but then I realized that my job as a mom is to instill that in my kids.
The truth is- I hate having to ask for help. With a passion.
Asking for help feels like an admission of weakness. Asking for help feels like I’m shirking my responsibilities.
From a very young age I have prided myself on my self-sufficiency, but what I have started to understand this week is that by doing everything for my kids instead of teaching them and requiring them to do things for themselves and the others in this house, I am depriving THEM of the ability to become self-sufficient.
I recently had a conversation with a friend who told me their kids don’t do chores. They were asking if that was typical, because back when we were kids, everybody did chores. It was part of every day life. You came home from school, and you were responsible for SOMETHING. Maybe it was walking the dog, or helping with dinner. Sometimes it was just cleaning our rooms.
I read the “Little House on the Prairie” books. They had chores.
They had to wash dishes by hand in a bucket, sweep dirt floors and do laundry by rubbing their clothes against a washboard.
I’m pretty sure that on “Leave it to Beaver” the kids had chores, although, after watching this little clip, perhaps not.
My kids don’t have a regular chore schedule. Over the years I have attempted to create a regular chore schedule, and I have been met with resistance.
My husband already figured this delegation thing out- he’s had Nathan mowing the lawn for 2 years. Now he’s down to taking out the trash, and I think he’s trying to get Nathan to take that on as well.
So, inspired by Sydney’s declaration that I robbed her of self-confidence by not giving her chores, I decided I would start by assigning each kid a night to be responsible for dinner.
I started with Parker.
Me: Parker, guess what?!?
Parker (warily): What?
Me: You get to make dinner tonight!
Parker: I don’t know how to make dinner.
Me: That’s the best part! I’m going to TEACH you! And you get to make whatever you want.
Parker: Chicken broccoli casserole
Me: I figured you’d say that.
At 5pm Monday night, I dragged Parker away from his Youtube videos of other people playing video games, and Parker helped me make his favorite dinner. He preheated the oven, cooked the broccoli in the microwave, dumped the cream of chicken soup into the bowl, added the other sauce ingredients and stirred to his heart’s desire. He refused to touch the half-cooked chicken, and I don’t blame him. At the end he carefully placed the cheese (I couldn’t find shredded in the fridge, only sliced)
crumbled up the bread for the very large bread crumbs, and added chunks of butter. There was a bit of a scuffle over whether or not he was allowed to eat one of the butter chunks.
He opened the oven and I placed the casserole in to bake. He set the timer.
The best part was the look on his face when everyone ate the dinner he made and gave him all sorts of praise.
Tonight Zoe is helping me make her favorite dinner- Swedish meatballs. These kids are definitely predictable. Hopefully next week I can talk them into something different, or I’m gonna get sick of these two meals pretty quick.
I’m making a conscious effort to change the way I think regarding chores. I’m trying to retrain my brain to see giving my children responsibilities as a benefit to them, as opposed to laziness on my part for pawning off something that’s supposed to be “my job.”
I’m starting to believe “my job” is not to do things for my children, but to teach them to do for themselves. I take for granted my ability to do chores. I don’t like them, but I certainly can do them. I wouldn’t say I’m GREAT at them, but I’m capable.
I want my kids to have confidence in their abilities; And that extends to their ability to clean up after themselves, to feed themselves, to wash their own clothes.
Will I create a chore chart? Probably not. I’m not that organized. Once was enough.
But I will give them expectations to live up to, and I will stop feeling guilty when I ask them to help. I will keep reminding myself that I am giving them a healthy dose of vitamin C.
C for chores, that is.
“Cleanliness is not next to godliness. It isn’t even in the same neighborhood. No one has ever gotten a religious experience out of removing burned-on cheese from the grill of the toaster oven.”
― Erma Bombeck