I posted a quick snap on my IG stories last week of my oldest son (10), he had his arms, elbow deep in soapy water, doing the dinner dishes. In the caption I mentioned that he'd done it without being asked...which is probably why I snapped it. It surprised me too. What doesn't surprise me anymore? Walking into my kitchen and seeing this...this was last year's costume, but this year's has already made a few appearances. :)
After that post, I received DM after DM in amazement, many asking in a couple of different ways, how I orchestrated that.
I didn't, for the most part, but I have spent years laying down the ground work for those things to happen on their own.
First I'll tell you up front that he's a good boy and very protective of me. He's noticed that I can't do dishes easily anymore. My stomach is right in the way, which leads to an awkward bend and an aching back. As such, my husband usually does all the dishes at the end of each day. So perhaps, I should give my husband a bit more credit in the laying of the groundwork.
On that particular night, Zack had just gotten home from soccer practice. By the time he gets home, the 2 younger are already in the throws of the bedtime routine. While my husband is upstairs with them, I'll stay down with Zack, getting him dinner & chatting about his day. That particular evening, he ate & then started in on the dishes...while I sat on a barstool and kept chatting with him.
So how did we get to this point? Him doing dishes & me chatting on a barstool?
I'll tell you, we've been on this road for years and years. I've always been a huge proponent of kids learning how to work within the home. Not that I needed any more encouragement, but a couple of years ago, I actually came across a study that showed that kids that did daily chores & work around the home were apt to more success and achievement outside the home in later years than anything else. More so than sports or other extracurricular activities. At that point, my oldest was old enough to read...and complain about his chores, I let him read it & since then have always reminded him in his moments of complaint that I'm just planning for his future success.
In all seriousness though, I could not do what I do, without my kids helping around the house. It's just not feasible and I'm okay letting my kids know that. I really started depending on them when I had my third baby. I had a horrible pregnancy on number 3. Sick for months on end, a husband working long hours & then going to school for his MBA on top of it, increased risks with the pregnancy and then growing a huge baby that did a serious number on my body.
My kids had always done minor chores around the house, picking up their rooms, tidying up the play room, but that was when I taught my oldest how to clean a toilet & my daughter how to wipe down bathroom counters. I was sick as could be & could not keep my stomach cleaning a toilet, but it still needed to be done so we made it work.
I haven't cleaned a toilet since.
To be honest, my kids loved cleaning that bathroom, that time I sat on the side of the tub, green-faced walking them through the mechanics of it. Which cleaners to use, where to put the dirty rags, making sure they washed their hands after cleaning said toilet...and you want to know what? When I stopped short of having them clean the shower, they stopped and begged me to let them clean it. So bathing suits they donned and the shower sparkled. Oddly enough, cleaning my shower is still a favorite job of each of them.
In that moment, I realized they could do it, wanted to do it & should do it. If I look at my role as mother in the form of a job description, my goal is to put myself out of a job. My role is to make them independent and capable, and if I don't allow them those opportunities, I'm not doing my job. So they have a lot of opportunities to work around here...every day and yes, they complain, also every day.
As of right now, when they come home from school, they are expected to do their home work right away and then 2 jobs before they can play. I don't care who knocks on the door or what plans they've made with their friends at school -- they have to do their jobs before they head out the door. I've had various systems and strategies over the years but that is what it averages out to. Now that we've established and ethic of work, there are some days we can throw in the towel & skip it all and get right back on track the next day, but initially, I held really consistent to them doing their jobs before heading out to play.
So what kind of jobs do they do? Here's a quick sampling of what they can do based on their ages:
Zack 10: mows the lawn, washes dishes, cleans bathrooms, makes dinner, vacuums rugs, trims plants
Olivia 8: Dusts, cleans bathrooms, vacuums wood floors, cleans windows, waters flowers, folds clothes, cooks simple meals
Max 5: Unloads dishwasher, picks up family room, wipes down appliances, takes out trash, cleans bathrooms, pulls weeds
Obviously anything Liv & Max can do, so can Zack -- so at this point, I've got just about everything covered except the laundry, but we're getting there. Next up, they are going to become experts at changing diapers & bathing babies! I'd be lying if I didn't tell you I'm excited for them. As they learn new things, their confidence begins to grow and their minds begin to expand because they begin to understand that they can do hard things. They also are beginning to learn that the actual doing of the hard things is fun. In the instance of Zack doing the dishes without being asked, his motive was two-fold: first, he is protective of me, as such, he'll take over anytime he sees me doing the dishes, second, it was past his bedtime, but he's learned if he's being helpful, I don't really care about bedtimes. He's a smart boy & while I'd like to take credit for that, I can't.
Hi, I'm Amy. When I'm not scouring the valley for the perfect new house, you can usually find me in the kitchen with a gaggle of kids. Chips, salsa and a Diet Coke are usually in hand.