Here's What REALLY Happens When You Make Kids Do Chores (It's Not Pretty)
This will not be one of those heartwarming posts about children who learn to do chores and live in cooperation with family and generally grow up more prepared for the adult world. Yes, that happens...after a time. This post is about the actual teaching — and about me hiding in my bedroom typing in self-defense.
It is the end of summer. We are just back from vacation and summer camp and there is a small possibility we will be moving house. Or to put it in to-do list language, we have loads of laundry to do, school to prepare for (son is in his two-year super-growth spurt so never wears anything for more than a few months as it is, and the girls have all jumped a size since last spring), and a house to make extra tidy.
Since our vacation was ahead of Central Time and in the tropics, we were waking with the sun. Today, everyone was up and moving by 7:30 a.m., which was perfect for a chore day.
Things started well. Two sorted and started laundry. Son dealt with the trash and luggage while I made breakfast. Then they went for a walk (to hatch Pokemon Go eggs, as one does in the Summer of '16). When they returned, the first load was ready for folding, and I, being the cool mom I am, let them watch TV while folding.
After a couple of re-dos for messy folds, things started to go sideways. Child 3 folded less than Child 2, who kept bellowing at me to rectify this injustice. I relieved Child 4, who was doing her duties well and without complaint, from further duty on this round and divided the rest between the quibbling sisters.
In the meantime, I had gathered more trash from the mail and carry-ons, but now had to explain to Child 1 that just because he did the trash an hour ago it did not mean that trash hauling was done for the day. Repetitive never-doneness — that is the essence of chores.
Things roller-coastered from then on. Child 2 found inspiration to clean out the pantry. I try to roll with these moments. Of course I want her to organize the pantry! But while unpacking? Chore timing is an advanced chore skill. Nevertheless, she wanted a tidy pantry before I ordered the groceries.*
Instead of pulling everything out and organizing items into categories on the counter before putting it back in the pantry, however, she restocked as she cleaned. This took longer as she had to keep rearranging the shelves to fit things that were on other parts of the counter. More than a few mother-daughter "discussions" ensued over the fact that she was doing it wrong and it was taking too long.
*One of the things I missed about moving back to Houston from London was grocery delivery. Walking cities like London have fabulous delivery services for almost anything. Houston is not a walking city. It takes a huge chunk of the week to go to the grocery store. And then came Instacart at HEB, which I highly recommend.