Monday, August 13, 2007

Early, early Monday morning musings on chores and teaching my children

We had a nice weekend and I'm starting the week off feeling good. Calm and relaxed. Ready to face just about anything life can throw at me. The house is clean. The laundry is done. Pete went to the grocery store. I did work stuff for several hours on Sunday, so I have a jump on my job.

We cleaned house on Saturday and it was a family project, not just Pete and me. As the girls get older, we involve them more and more in household stuff. School starts in a little over a week, and the girls' birthdays are next month, so this seems like a good time to transition them to new chores.

Graceful has been responsible for putting away her clean laundry for about a year now and just recently started having to sort and fold first. Elegant is now learning to put away her laundry and keep her drawers tidy. It takes far more time for me to supervise El and make sure she does the job right, but she needs to learn this, so I take deep breaths and just remain patient while she attempts the Japanese art of origami with her underwear.

They clear their dishes after meals and I'm now teaching them how to load them directly into the dishwasher. They think unloading the dishwasher is an amazing skill, so I should probably utilize that enthusiasm more often.

The girls have been occasionally helping to set the table for dinner and I'm hoping to make this a regular task this coming year, even though it's another one of those things that's quicker when I do it myself, plus they aren't always cheery and happy about chores after a long day at school.

Graceful continues to be interested in learning to cook. I just bought a bread machine and she and I are going to learn to use it together. She sat down and read through the manual/cookbook and she's just so excited about this new project. Her enthusiasm is infectious and I predict a lot of bread in our immediate future. Elegant is also learning her way around the kitchen and recently decided that she can make her own peanut butter sandwiches AND she cuts them into circles (using a cup as a guide). She's really good at it too. I'll probably have the girls do more with preparing their lunches this year, since they have never once bought a lunch at school and packing takes planning and time.

The girls naturally hate picking up after themselves and I'm getting tired of being the household maid, so we're working on that tidiness thing. The toy room is usually the worst to deal with, so I usually offer an incentive, as well as give them specific instructions that help them break the task into smaller ones and deal with the enormity of the mess.

Books are another mess that we deal with daily here. We're all prolific readers and there are hundreds and hundreds of books around the house. The biggest part of it is getting the girls to put their books away when they're done, especially since I often find stacks of books on the kitchen table or in the big bay window next to the kitchen table or piled on the stairs to up to bedrooms or all over the coffee table or ... well you get the idea. For whatever reason, both girls absolutely hate putting their books away properly. They'd rather dump them all on the floor next to their shelves or, at best, stack them vertically on a shelf, but not actually file them away. We're working on this one, but it's going to take time and lots of patience on my part.

All this instruction is part of the parenting process. Pete and I know we have to teach the girls because one day, way down the road, they'll live on their own and will need to know how to care for themselves and where they live. Plus, they need to understand that running a household is not just the parents' job -- it's a family project and an ongoing one at that. It may take us time now, but it will save us time later as we share the daily responsibilities with the two junior members of Jenworld.

And now it's time to end my 4 a.m. ramblings and attempt to go back to sleep. Why am I awake at this hour? Sometimes I just wake up and can't get back to sleep for a couple of hours, especially if someone else is not very quiet.


Poppy Buxom said...

Color me impressed!

I'm totally going to steal a lot of these ideas.

Poppy who is tired of being the family pack mule.

Happy Working Mom said...

I have such a hard time when it comes to chores. My parents truly believed that it was our job to do all the work in our house. I was washing dishes (and I mean washing with soap and water) at age 5, cleaning bathrooms by age 7 or 8, and cleaning the entire kitchen and the bathrooms by age 12. I'm very, very bitter about it because my mom was sitting on her butt the whole time my sisters and I were cleaning.

So when raising my kids, I have vowed to show them that I would have a dirty kitchen whether they are there or not, so that means that I can clean it. But of course I want responsible kids, so there will be chores. My problem is finding the balance between chores teaching responsibility and chores because of "laziness" on my part.

What I'm having a hard time with right now is our 4 year-old wants to clear the table after dinner and set the table. When she helps me, I have to resist the urge to do it myself because I feel like she's too you, I need to capitalize on these times that she WANTS to help me, and then deal with the balance when she's no longer so eager to help.

This is yet another example of why parenting can be so tiring!