It is summertime, and at the Hobbs house that means it is time to learn some life skills.
My work schedule (or lack thereof) gives me plenty of time around the house with the kiddos and I am committed that all of that time will not be spent watching movies or playing Minecraft.
We do the reading thing and the getting outside thing, but what I really get behind in the summer is teaching my kids things they won’t learn in school. Like how to cook dinner, do laundry, and other assorted household chores.
My desire to do this is two-fold. For one, I want them to grow up and be independent adults who don’t call me to ask what “delicate, wash cold, line dry” means. Also, I appreciate the help around the house. At twelve and almost eleven, my children are old enough to pitch in. Since my philosophy of family is that we all do our part as we are able, it is time for them to step up and do their part.
However, I am quickly discovering the “kids being helpful” part will take a while to manifest.
I initially thought of entitling this post “Teaching Your Kids To Do Chores Is More Like Planting a Tree Than a Flower,” but I’ve never had this much trouble with a sapling. It is more like planting and tending a fussy tomato plant that takes around four years to bear any fruit.
Take teaching my son to sweep the kitchen floor. I showed him once how to do it and then expected him to replicate my actions the next week. Except when I hand him the broom and walk away, he cries “I’m done” in like 60 seconds. I look at the floor and he has done more a broad swath with the broom than a sweep. I take the broom into my hands and show him how to get the dust bunnies out of all the nooks and crannies. Then I tell him to do likewise. He grumbles. I grumble back. The kitchen still looks half swept at the end of the day.
As we try out new chores I’ve been trying to walk the fine between having them do it right and making them feel like they can’t do anything right.
The first time my daughter cleaned the bathroom sinks, I showed her how to use a toothbrush to get the gunk out of the silver ring around the drain (for some reason this is very important to me). When I went back and looked at her finished job, I noticed that though she got the drains well, the second sink in our bathroom was still a bit smudgy with toothpaste and the like. I considered calling her back for another tutorial, but then pictured the tears that would probably result. I decided we would call this clean and work on toothbrush smudges next time.
The main result of our experiment so far is this. I am spending twice as much time on household chores and living in a somewhat messy house anyway. This is killing my husband and me a little bit at the time. Between his OCD and my perfectionism we are constantly biting our tongues (or not).
And then there are the accidents.
When my daughter accidentally beheaded St Francis with the water hose while doing her chore of watering the garden, my husband and I both remained relatively calm. We had purchased St Francis several years ago for a small price. He can probably be fixed with some good glue anyway. And after all, revolutionaries such as Francis often come to a rough end.
But today got the best of me. Today my son decided to create shields for his Hobbit themed birthday party at the same time my daughter wanted to work on her photo collage that she is giving my husband as a Father’s Day present. Normally, I would have been hovering over each one of them, advising and correcting as they went along. But they are no longer little kids. They want to do things on their own now and get annoyed when I hover. So I left my daughter to her work while I walked outside with my son since his you-tube tutorial included the use of a box cutter on cardboard.
*A small sidebar on me and my son. People are always commenting on how much my son looks like his father and have dubbed him, “Little Jason.” These people do not live with us. Whereas my son looks like his dad and might do well to act like his dad, he’s got a good bit of momma in there. Neither of us can work a zipper well, and neither of us can understand why. Also, we apparently both have issues with knives.
Almost twenty years ago I accidentally stabbed myself in the arm right above my elbow while putting up a kitchen knife. There was a lot of blood and screaming. My husband rushed me to the nearest ER and was rewarded by almost getting the cops called on him for stabbing me. After all, who accidentally stabs themselves with a kitchen knife?
Well, apparently my son got the knife skills gene from me along with the zipper gene. For as he was carefully using the box cutter on his cardboard and as I was muttering and praying, the inevitable happened. He cut himself.
He screamed, I screamed, he saw his own blood and screamed some more. I tried to stay relatively calm during the hydrogen peroxide screaming and applying a band-aid screaming (his cut was really not that bad). After we had both calmed down some more, I went to check on my daughter and her collage. Over all it looked lovely, but in one frame the faces were way off center and almost out of the box altogether.
I know I should have let this go. This was her gift to him. But in my stress. my perfectionism reared its ugly head. I took the collage from her and fussed and cussed until the picture was more suitable to my standards (to make it worse, this happened to be the pic in the collage of ME).
After I achieved my perfection, I looked around at the destruction around me. Both my kids were sullen and on the verge of tears. I called a 30 minute time out for all of us to go to our rooms and took stock of things. I realized I was in the wrong with my daughter and over my head with my son. I called my husband at work to inform him from here on out all straight razor jobs were his responsibility to manage and that knife and scissor tasks were iffy too.
Then I went and apologized to my kids.
Because maybe the best lesson I can teach them in all of this is that we all make mistakes and that grace is big and wide enough to hold all our messes. Even if we never quite learn to clean them up properly.