I love a good ol’ retro summer. There’s nothing better than waking up to the hum of window-unit air conditioning, an 85-degree sun breaking through the clouds, and a task-less day on the calendar that requires a four-hour visit to the pool. Throw in some game show reruns at 11 a.m. and a bowl of Froot Loops, and you’ve got the young and the restless.
That was my life in 1988.
Was I spoiled? You better believe it. I lived for the weeks that fell between Memorial Day and Labor Day and to this very day, I hate the thought of year-round school because it would put an end to my romance with summer. Life was good.
Recently, I told a friend that I would be happy to take her kids to the pool since she had to work. She wrote back, “Most high school kids don’t go to the pool anymore. They WORK!”
According to my much wiser friend, older kids today have homework assignments to complete and tests to take. There are summer reading requirements and camps to attend. If they are at the pool, it’s because they work there as lifeguards. Kids have responsibilities!
Another confession: I don’t ask my girls to do much around the house, but I’m starting to feel like they should. I expect them to pick up their toys and straighten their room, and I ask them to grab a towel or two when I’m folding laundry. But as for daily chores? No…they don’t have any. Why? Because they’re 9 and 6 and they still seem “little” to me. Yet some of my friends’ kids have been making their own lunches — by choice — since kindergarten.
I don’t know why this surprises me. After all, when our daughter was in preschool, part of the morning routine was identifying who did what job in the classroom that day. Someone was the door holder, someone gave the weather report, someone fed the fish, someone was the snack helper. And the four-year-olds loved their jobs.
My friend, who is also a valuable mentor (and if you don’t have a friend like this, I highly recommend you get one), called it as she saw it: ”Ava is tall enough to reach the washing machine knobs, and Maryn is short enough to take clothes out of the dryer.”
While looking at different images pinned on Pinterest (no time wasted there…), I found a quote that got my attention:
If you want children to keep their feet on the ground, put some responsibility on their shoulders. – Abigail Van Buren
Points taken. Am I raising my kids to be spoiled, too? Probably. They’re courteous and respectful girls, but they don’t have to break a sweat too often. I decided at that moment to give them a few odd jobs to see how they’d respond to the call of duty.
“Will I get money?” asked the youngest. This is the child who would wash between my aunt’s toes for a dollar.
“But Mommmmmm!” protested the oldest. ”Vacation just starrrrted!”
You’ve had a full week off, I told them. No money. No whining.
Maryn jumped right in and started sorting clothes. Ava sat cross-legged on the couch and bounced her foot in irritation. I instructed her to make the beds. She sat in defiance.
Either make the bed, or spend the day in it while Maryn and I go to the pool, I announced.
She slumped out of the room and stomped up the stairs. She did a sloppy job, but at least she got all the parts and pieces in the right place.
So who’s fault is it? I blame myself and I really blame my husband. He caters to his girls (I didn’t make that list for some reason), and he insists on doing everything for them. I don’t know if it’s a “daddy’s girl” thing or if he works so much that he tries to make up lost time by being overly attentive. However, he mowed lawns, passed papers, worked as a courtesy clerk at a grocery store, and helped his grandparents with whatever was needed. Sure, he was 17, but that work ethic began far earlier in life. He’s still that way. The man never stops.
The girls aren’t overjoyed with their new schedule, but I know it’s a mandatory requirement in the School of Growing Up. Handing out a few chores each day gives them a purpose in this family, aside from being our kids. Completing their jobs is no different than finishing classroom assignments — they get gold stars for doing good work. There’s a sense of accomplishment in doing something well.
Yes, sweeping up kicked-out cat litter is easier if I do it by myself — and yes, loading the dishwasher takes no time at all if I’m at the controls — but I have to teach Ava and Maryn to leave things in better shape than they found them. If I don’t, then I’ll have to deal with the consequence of my own inaction. And that’s a price I’m not willing to pay.