Chores and Kids: Like Oil and Water! Or are they?
Parenting. Who needs another blog on parenting? There’s no shortage of advice columns, videos, articles, and blogs! But what about a blog that just talks about the challenges of parenting—through the years into the kid’s adulthood, and then making the transition to mother in law, and grandparenting? Just someone who is honest with their own struggles and who gained some insight along the way? I hope that sounds encouraging. So sit down, grab a cup of coffee and be ready to laugh at all my mistakes, angst, headaches and "aha!" moments.
First of all, I wasn't a perfect parent. Just getting that out there, in case someone thinks that being a perfect parent is the goal. Not only is that not possible, I don't think it's a healthy model. What IS a good model is to own our mistakes, even to our kids, and in so doing, model to them how to handle their personal failings. It also helps them be honest in general, because they see me, the authority figure, the parent, being honest. However, that does come with some risk, ya know? What if the kid now respects you less, or you have less authority on the matter? Maybe you're afraid that admitting a mistake equals weakness, and weakness means you will be taken advantage of. By your kids. But the exact opposite actually happens. My kids were more ready to be honest and willing to open up to me about their struggles. They knew they would have a sympathetic ear.
When they were little and still looked up to me as a god without fault, I let them in on the secret that I actually hated doing dishes, found making the bed pointless, cleaning the house boring, and doing the dishes a grind..... all the things that kids fuss about! I think the godlike quality faltered a little, but it let them know early on that I didn’t buy into that view. Too much pressure! So when the rose colored glasses really came off, they already knew I had “issues”. But I did those chores anyway and expected them to as well, because that is how we live in the world, how we respect our space and others who live in it too.
But I also wasn't a super strict mom on chores. I know some moms and dads are, but I was always more interested in why a kid didn't want to do their chores. Maybe they felt overwhelmed with homework. Or they were exhausted. Or a friend was coming over. Kids will come up with a million reasons, I know, not to do chores. But then so will I! So we'd negotiate. When will you get it done. OR I know you don't want to because you are worn out, but you will find strength you didn't know you had if you just get it done now.
Probably the most challenging kids on the chore front were my oldest and youngest boys. My oldest would do science experiments while doing dishes. Fill the sink with soapy water, watch the bubbles form, see how the water went down the drain... I don't know what went through his brain, but he would stand at the sink for hours, not doing chores, but for all the world, making it seem like he was. Then my youngest was a daydreamer. I think he wrote stories in his head while he was doing chores, so he would forget what he was supposed to do. Probably forgot where he was, cause his mind had traveled to his imaginary places. Or he would listen to music while doing chores, but began playing drums on the desk with the pencil he was supposed to put away. Or some such thing.
I knew that chores needed to be done of course, but my focus was not on the task per se. Though there were days when I was like "would you just get the *&%* job done!!" But often I was intrigued by their diversions and paid attention to that. Even encouraged it at other times.
For example, my husband had a computer programming book lying around and gave it to our oldest. It was Macromedia Director Lingo Dictionary, and later Josh picked up Java Script. Those became his bedtime books. Ha. He also had a knack for math, so when he realized that music is math, he quickly picked up the guitar, and even wrote his own program to figure out the notes he needed to play. These interests could be traced back, I think, to his focused interest in how things worked when he was at the kitchen sink. And now? He's 30 and works for IBM as a programmer! But let me tell ya, school years for him were mostly awful. His mind did not think like most, and school seems designed for a very narrow range of children, and my son did not fit in.
At six, we enrolled David, our youngest, in music lessons with a neighbor. He couldn't read yet, so he learned a lot just by listening, watching and memorizing. He has a very good ear for music. Eventually he learned music theory and how to read music, but we wanted to fan the flames early on. Later we got a steal of a deal on a baby grand, because I knew his love of music would benefit him his whole life. And it has. He uses music in a variety of settings.
So my philosophy on parenting? Be curious about your kids!! No one else has ever been on this earth like them, nor will there ever be again. They are completely unique and will teach you lessons about God and yourself like nothing else. Even if you don’t believe in God, you might say “Oh God!” on occasion when you are at your wits end and have no answers to what you are facing. They will stretch you to the limit, but if you allow the stretching to happen, you will grow in unexpected ways.