Saturday, February 28, 2009

Growing Pains

My husband is always complaining that I do too much for my kids.

"Let them put away their own laundry."

"But it sits there for a week when I do that."

"Why are you changing his sheets?"

"Because it's hard to get into the back corner."

"He can get breakfast himself."

"But he can't reach the bowls in the cabinet."

And on and on. Part of it is, I know, the way I was brought up. Mom was the caretaker and we let her do it all. And I'm sure part of why I do it is because I can. As an at-home mom, my job is to take care of the family. So I do the big and little things to make their lives easier, finish my jobs more quickly and keep everyone on schedule. But this week I had a reality check, courtesy of a neighbor.

The neighbor, who has four children ranging in age from seven to 17, was helping her son get his art college applications and portfolio together and submitted. While she feels he would benefit from another year at home, he made an offer that made her reconsider.

"I'll stay home if the only chores I have to do are take out the garbage and make my bed."

Huh? Indeed, if this were to be the case, he should be BEGGING to stay home, not making it his ultimatum. His mom and I both feel that, at age 17, this boy should be doing a lot more around the house. But like me, she has always taken care of things. Hm. A preview of things to come? Frighteningly, I see now that this is a very real possibility.

Of course all parents know that children need to do chores in order to learn to take care of themselves and their stuff, as well as handle responsibility. Even the Obama girls have to make their own beds, even though they have staff members to do it. But what's a mother to do to garner interest, or at least cooperation, from the LEGO and train fanatics?

It'll take an adjustment on my part, for sure. I need to be able to let the laundry sit, clean and folded in the hampers, in their rooms until they want something specific that isn't clean anymore. I need to make sure no dessert is served until the table is cleared and the dishes have been put in the dishwasher. And I am not above bribery and blackmail.

"Jacob, did you change your sheets yet?"

"Not yet. I'll do it later."

At bedtime: "Jacob, did you change your sheets?"

"Oh, dang. I forgot."

"You're sleeping on the floor tonight."

"WHAT???!? Wait, I can't. There's no room because my hamper full of clean clothes is in the way."

"OK, then go sleep with the dog in the living room."

Yeah, right. Then I'll wake up from that dream and close his door on the way to the kitchen so I don't have to look at the piles of laundry and the unmade bed.

As parents, we have to pick our battles and I admit I'm a wimp. This is just a battle I choose not to pick, usually because it's less aggravating to do the jobs myself. I know that the longer I take to make chores a part of their daily life, the harder it will be (see note on neighbor). And yet it always seems that tomorrow will be a better day to turn over a new leaf than today.

Maybe I should write to Michelle Obama for some tips.

Bedding by Boodalee:


Snowbrush said...

Peggy and I just have dogs, but I see similar behavior in us to that you describe with your husband. It's so often the woman who is nurturing and the man who is pushing for self-sufficiency. Takes both roles to raise kids, eh?

jen said...

Interesting post. Somehow made me think of a story I heard when I was still working at Google - that some recent graduates newly employed at the company (early-to-mid 20s) still had their parents schedule (and re-schedule) doctor's appointments for them because "they didn't know how or know their doctor's info."

It slightly made me appreciate more my mom's approach while growing up. At dinner she would ask, "Do you want something to drink?" And after we replied "Yes," she would say, "Go get it yourself."