My kids are six and eight. When I remember back to my childhood at that age, I was folding laundry for the family (not just my own), doing dishes on a tri-weekly rotation with my two siblings, dusting the entire house (which involved moving and dusting around tons of tchotchkes), feeding forty rabbits (we had a bunny business), sweeping and washing their waste, and cleaning my room regularly. It was about six months ago that I asked myself, “Why am I folding these clothes? Why am I putting the dishes in the dishwasher? And why, oh why, are my children NOT doing these things? I had become accustomed to doing things “right” and forgotten just how capable my kids are of accomplishing these tasks.
My children fold their own clothes, match their socks, make their beds, clear the table after they eat and even unload and load the dishwasher. Yes, they are standing on chairs to accomplish many of these tasks, and the quality of work is not that of an adult, but darn it they are learning.
And I am free. Free to let my children’s drawers be messy because the shirts are folded by hands that are still developing fine and large motor skills. I am okay to let my dishwasher be loaded in a way that I would not because they did. I am free to let the sheet remain crumpled under the duvet because they are learning. Yes! Yes! and YASS! Do I have to reorganize my cupboards sometimes? Yep. Do I have to ask them to come back and put the forks in the drawer in a manner that allows it to close? Yep. Do I mind? Nope. Why? Because it is my responsibility to teach them.
Contrary to popular belief it is not my responsibility to make my kids’ lives easy and happy all the time. Life requires work and if I rob them of that knowledge, I am setting them up for disappointment or to be blunt, a jacked up reality. Which leads me to a new dilemma; we have a house cleaner who comes twice a month. She takes care of the big ticket items that would eat up a Saturday morning or afternoon on a weekend. She mops our floors and cleans the bathrooms really well among a few other things. Our family’s lives are simplified by her bi-monthly visits. Thanks to her magic, we have not had to remove the burners on our stove and do a deep cleaning or get on our hands and knees to wash a floor in years (outside of the intermittent milk spill or cracked egg on the floor). Heck, we have a dog. He’s great for floors!
What am I getting at? My children do not know what it looks like to get on hands and knees to clean a floor. They have never seen me or my husband wash a tub or shower because we hired our amazing house cleaner when our daughter was one and our son was three. They come home from school every other Monday and voila! The house looks and smells amazing. As of now, we can’t imagine life without our beloved Dora. She knows our house, our children, and our family so well… she is like family.
Many things in life do not remain static; I believe we will have to #remix things so that my kids learn the art of basic cleaning jobs. This might mean that my metaphorical remix (one-hand-on-my-headphone-the-other-on-my-turntable) looks like this: we invest every other weekend in sprucing things up between Dora’s visits… or does it mean we sacrifice our convenience and two days of work for Dora in order to better prepare our children for life? This is something with which my husband and I are struggling. In the meantime, our window of time is short. My children are offering to do jobs because it is new – novelties. This season is sweet and I want to cash in on its innocence and their willingness. I think I know what we need to do. It’s taking a leap of faith and a momentary seasonal sacrifice that will reap benefits for them and our family in the long run. In the meantime, I’m going to fill a tub of warm soapy water for the kids. They want to wash the patio doors.