Chores and Kids

kids-doing-choresThis article in the NYTimes was a good reminder to put my money where my mouth is, and force the chore issue in our house. I’ve been semi-decent at teaching my kids to “help themselves” mostly because I’m a worn out husk of a mother most days. I have long abandoned the notion that turning myself inside out to help with every little thing makes me a better mother.

Yes, I am lazy, but I do also believe we aren’t doing our kids any favors by rushing to help them at every turn. I still make their school lunches, but I haven’t put frozen waffles in the toaster for months. I’ll still pour the milk in the cereal for Devil Baby, but only if the carton is too full for her to do it herself. I only tie skates and cleats for the youngest. Unless it’s dangerously cold, I don’t even nag about wearing a coat anymore.

But I realize that teaching them to help themselves is actually a separate thing from teaching them to help me – and I’m failing miserably at the latter. Right now I’m staring at a muddy yard covered in the white fluff of a disemboweled stuffed lamb that Foxy went to town on. I sent the girls out to deal with it yesterday and frankly, they did a terrible job. Finger pointing, and so and so not doing her share ended up in exactly nada. They came into the house in a swirl of muddy shoes and loud recriminations and I let it drop. Because it was easier.

Earlier in the day, I had found myself picking up handfuls of disintegrating dog crap out of the garden because Saint James didn’t do it on the last cold day when I told him to. He had picked up a fair amount, but again, the complaints about it being stuck in the snow and impossible to pick up got him off. And it it got me elbow-deep in warm, wet dog shit. Was it easier than listening to Saint James gag and whine? Arguably.

How can I expect them to do anything for me if I don’t even make them finish the things I have specifically asked them to do for me? As the article points out, parents have no one to blame but themselves for this. I cannot expect that my kids would have any clue of what needs to be done around here, and even if they did, that they’d have any sense of responsibility to pitch in, if I’m not putting this into play in a more consistent way. Helping to set and clear the table just isn’t going to cut it anymore. Watch out, kids! Mama’s got a bee in her bonnet.

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