No one needs a reminder that life is not fair. I know this, you know this, even the kids know this, at least on some level.
But my kids seem to be under the impression that unfairness happens to them more than others. And, as these things go, it often starts at home with the household chores.
“Why doesn’t she have to help empty the dishwasher?”
“How come I have to do all the all the work and he never has to do anything!”
“Why can’t I [fill in the blanks], you’re so mean! It’s NOT FAIR!”
Most of the time they’re pretty good at helping when I ask them. At least one kid enjoys participating in the endless meal preparations, which is helpful given how often people want to eat around here. The other will, sometimes grudgingly, help with the clean-up after meal times, simply because it has become routine to do so. But now, we’re on summer vacation, no one is in camp, and everyone wants a break from the routine.
Funny how I’m the only one who hasn’t had a break. Having everyone home 24/7 has increased the meal expectations by more than half of what it is during the school year, where I’m home at lunch by myself and not expected to put together a satisfying lunch.
But that’s a post for another day. Point is, with all of us here, there’s more chores to be done, and they have to help.
Yes, even during summer vacation.
Helping with chores should teach them responsibilities and skills. Also, I hope they learn to take pride in a job well done, not just because they think my expectations are too high, but because they expect if of themselves, too.
This last part seems to be an enduring, uphill battle. Laziness in the form of leaving jobs half done because they feel that I’m too picky or strict turns me into a roaring, raging hulk. They’re 11 and 8, I don’t have the patience or stamina left to repeat my expectations incessantly. “Get with the program”, I tell them. “You know what to do, and if you don’t, spell it out and post it to the wall”.
It appears that my offspring have no idea what awaits them in the real world. Measured activities, such as household chores, are a good indicator as to how they will fare in the working world. At home, if they do a mediocre job of cleaning up the kitchen, for example, we will still love the unconditionally even if they lose certain privileges as a consequence of a job not well done, or worse, left completely undone. (It does occasionally happen, with the excuse that “I forgot”…)
Like back in the toddler and preschool years, I will get off my own butt and drag a kid off the couch or electronic device to point at the ignored, incomplete or poorly done job. (Having to prepare a meal with wet counters, open cupboards, random pieces of dishes left in the sink and crumbs all over the cutting board does not make for a happy meal-making mamma, is what I’m saying.)
I’m just trying to prepare them for the real world. At a work place, the consequences for a poorly executed job may be very different from the current ‘no-ipad-today’ consequence, or the denial of an ice-cream sandwich.
It comes down to this:
“Yes, the constant emptying (and reloading) the dishwasher is a pain in the ass. So what? Eating constantly makes dirty dishes”, I inform my mini athletes.
“Oh, you’re out of underwear? Well open your eyes when you step over the full-of-clean-laundry basket on your way to your room. Perhaps you will notice that the clean underwear are in that basket and have been for several days…feel free to take initiative and put your clean laundry away. Learning how to do your own laundry is not far off in your future, honey…”, I regularly say to my children. (Note to self: laundry-class will begin in early August.)
That kind of thing.
Early this week at lunch I laid down the law. I outlined expectation for the remainder of summer vacation, suggested they make a list and post it to the wall if they require reminding of certain jobs, and provided clear and concise consequences for negligence or forgetfulness.
In addition to that, I also emphasized this free-for-all-play-with-electronics-whenever-they-feel-like-it was accepted and tolerated for the first two weeks of summer vacation but that privilege is now over. Everyone (except perhaps for the adults around here) are now decompressed and relaxed, but household work still needs to be done, and we expect assistance without attitude or complaints.
And while we’re on the topic, I re-introduced the typing lessons they’ve been working on last year and somehow managed to overlook in the past few months of chaos and hockeyringettebaseballschool and all the rest of it.
For the week beginning July 18, a 15 minute typing lesson prior to a finite amount of time on any given electronic is a new requirement. I will have a look at their progress sometime mid week and see where they’re at. My children, who are well on their way to typing with all of their digits instead of swiping with just the index finger, will thank me later. (Or maybe not. Probably not.)
One last thing I stated to the family around the lunch table: no one is getting more, or less, than anyone else. It all balances out. Almost immediately after I uttered those words, they came back with examples of how THEY had to endure all this suffering while the OTHER kid got to do x and y. So I replied with this:
“Yes, she got to go for ice cream with grandma. So what? You got to go out to a restaurant after your baseball game with your buddy. Right? Oh and what about the chicken wings and fries at a local pub after your tournament win with the team? Your sister wasn’t there for that, either.”
He was quiet, after that. (She got a similar story, just for emphasis.)
We shall see how things progress from here on in. And despite the fact that my people don’t like my lists and calendars and planning, they all somewhat grudgingly accept that clear instructions posted on walls avoids confusion and prevents argumentative behaviour (theoretically).
It’s right there in black and white.
Edited to add: it’s been three days. There’s been some resistance, but eventual acceptance of the new way of handling chores during summer vacation. So far, so good. My goal is that I won’t have to supervise quite so closely by next week of the more routine activities (after dinner clean-up, or the cleaning of their own bathroom). I’m hopeful we can get by without charts or logs, and simply contribute as a family to get the job done quickly, so we can all relax together afterwards.