Monday, August 25, 2008
Child Labor, With Love
Since my children were small, I’ve tried to give them household tasks to do that matched their ages and abilities. But I recently realized I’d fallen down on the job in that area, unknowingly falling into DIY syndrome.
You see, I’ve always been a firm believer that children and teenagers should be given responsibilities and chores growing up. I roll my eyes when I hear my teenage siblings (yep, you read that right) complain about having to walk the dogs or clean up their rooms. When I was growing up (now I sound really old), we lived on a farm. Guess who fed the cow, goats, horses, chickens, and various other animals TWICE per day? Guess who was required to spend a whole hour every summer day pulling weeds out of the garden? Not to mention helping can vegetables, mow the lawn, haul wood, take care of the house, on and on and on… My sister, Mom, and me. I WISH all I’d had to do was walk the dog and clean my room.
But there was a positive upside to this type of lifestyle. When I moved out on my own, I knew how to take care of myself. Fixing my own meals, doing laundry, cleaning up after myself, held no mysteries. I’d been doing it since I was 10. Heck, during college I cleaned other people’s houses to make grocery money. And I want the same for my children. To me, there is no excuse for sending your child out into the world not knowing how to do laundry. It’s part of life. A parent’s job is to prepare them for what they will face in life.
Well, I recently realized that I’d been slacking in this area. It all started with the dishwasher…
I hate unloading the dishwasher. Actually, I hate dishes in general. I’m solely responsible for them at my house. That’s one thing I honestly try not to ask my hubby to do, because he owns a restaurant. He does dishes at work. Not a bunch (he has help), but he has been known to help clean up the kitchen. I hate doing them. I’d started Drama Queen out teaching her to put away the silverware. She could actually do it pretty well from the time she was about 4, but with moving and everything, we got out of the habit. I’d fallen into the old, “It’s easier to do it myself than wait on someone else” trap.
Then I was over at Instigator’s one day and watched her girls putting their dishes into the dishwasher after they ate dinner. What? They were younger than my kids. Could I? Should I?
Yep, I did. Actually, I haven’t started making them load the dishwasher yet. We have one of those older models that, if you don’t rinse the dishes really well before putting them in, they don’t come out clean. But they could EMPTY the dishwasher…. Yay!!!
I started by teaching Little Man, who is now 4, to put away the utensils. It’s like a sorting game and he is so proud of himself when he’s done. Unfortunately for Drama Queen, now 8, she gets to put away the brunt of the dishes, sorting them onto the counter then putting them in their proper cabinets. We have to do that because the position of the dishwasher blocks some of the cabinet doors. Then I load the dishwasher with dirty dishes from the sink. Combined effort, and hopefully once everyone gets the hang of it, less work for moi.
Hmmm… I wonder what else they can do? What did you feel was important to teach your child before they moved out? What responsibilities have you passed on to your children at different ages? (In other words: Please convince me I'm not a slave driver.)
Update: Our own Maven Beverly Barton is guest blogging today at Fresh Fiction. Check it