I’m a week into my new training program, and two things are obvious: 1) I am ridiculously late starting this; and 2) there is no finish line in site.
No, I’m not training for another race. (Lesson learned this past weekend: As I was spreading mulch, I shook a bush and then ran like hell, right past my husband, while yelling, “Is there a swarm after me?” He commented, after his laughter subsided, that he didn’t know I could move that quickly, proving once and for all that there’s no need to train for speed—when I really need it, it’ll be there. It’s called adrenalin.)
Anyway, this new training program is for my kids, though they’re the unwitting participants. I’m trying to be subtle, lest I find myself in the middle of a mutiny. I’ve decided it’s high time they start pulling their own weight around here. And maybe some of mine, too. As I asked their dad while spreading that mulch without their help, WHY did we have children anyway if not for cheap child labor during these long summer months?
They’ve had it easy. They’ve been coasting through their childhoods with minimal responsibilities. I thought we were doing okay with having them clean up their stuff, set and clear the breakfast room table and feed the dogs. (But seriously, how difficult is that? Two scoops of dry dog food from a bin?) And I do have them make their own lunches on weekends and during the summer. But their “work” stops there.
A good friend of mine told me last week that she’s given up washing her children’s clothes. Her kids are 14, 13 and—10. My son’s age. Seriously? (She did say that her one daughter has run out of clean clothing and rather than do a load or two, has now started raiding her sister’s drawers and closet). They also clean their own bathroom, toilet included. And my friend has had her kids load and unload the dishwasher for years. Years. I hung my head in mothering shame.
And then, as I stared at my feet, the shame hanging over me, a new emotion started taking over: Hope. My mind raced through the possible scenarios. Time saved: check. Kids learning responsibility: check. At least one consistently clean bathroom: check. And then… A huge disruption to the “way” I do things: Bummer—check.
I’m particular. When my husband loads the dishwasher, I’ll casually, quietly follow-up after him and “reorganize” things. The laundry’s the same. And bedrooms? The kids attempt to clean them, and I come in afterward, arranging things just so.
I’ll require baby-steps here. Last week, I put the kids completely in charge of their rooms. The results were less than perfect, and I cringed as I looked around. But I found some really cool tools to help me with my new parenting resolve: bedroom doors.
When closed, they help their rooms look terrific to me.