A few weeks ago we had a family over for lunch, when towards the beginning of the meal the 11 year old girl looked at her mother and said, “Don’t get any ideas!” Nothing unusual or remarkable was happening and I was a little mystified at to what she could be referring to, so I asked and her mother said they noticed that several of my kids got up to serve the meal. The daughter adamantly said she didn’t want her mother to start expecting them to bring the food to the table.
A little later in the meal, the mother was describing her chore schedule to me, and her daughter grimaced and indicated that she felt she had to do too much. I smiled at her and told her that she would feel very lucky if she knew the chores my kids do, and then told her. There was some kind of response at how much my kids had to do, but then my dd14 who was sitting right there corrected her and said our kids don’t have many chores at all. It’s all about perspective, isn’t it?
I do expect my kids to help out, and to do it fairly willingly, and it was good for me to hear the response of the visiting eleven year old, to increase my appreciation of what my children do and how they do it. I’m grateful that my kids find what’s expected of them fair and reasonable, since I try to be balanced in my expectations. But the truth is that they do a lot more than most kids their ages. Then again, they have a lot more freedom and flexibility in their schedules than most kids their ages, so I guess it all evens out!
A big part of why they do what they do is determined by my feelings about teaching kids basic living skills. That included cooking, baking, cleaning, laundry, child care, and general home organization. There are other important skills, too, like money management, home repair, etc, that I consciously help them to learn while living at home (my post on teaching money management was one of those lost when the blogged was hacked a couple of months ago). These aren’t gender specific skills – boys and girls will benefit by knowing them regardless of what roles they end up in later in life.
All of these are skills you develop by doing them – you can’t just read a book! By the time they are twelve, I want each of them to have the skills to basically be able to run a home. That doesn’t mean that they do run my house, but that they can do it if they needed to. I feel it’s a true kindness to teach a child these skills when they’re at home instead of sending them into the adult world without basic competencies. That’s probably why I don’t suffer from guilt when asking my kids to help – I appreciate their help and it obviously makes our home life run more smoothly, but I also know that they’re becoming well prepared for life. I bet all of you know adults who are still struggling to learn basic skills – wouldn’t it have been so much easier for them have learned it when young?
I’ll try to share our current chore chart next week for those of you who are wondering how the work in our house is divvied up.