I went to Riley’s teacher conference at school today. There’s a whole checklist of cognitive, physical, social/emotional, language and arts/music/movement items that they either check off or not. Examples are: waits for turn, holds crayon age appropriately, walks up/down stairs appropriately, follows directions and communicates using words. Unless there’s something going on with your two-year-old, it’s mostly an opportunity for the teacher to tell you how cute your kid is.
Riley pretty much aced his checklist, except for knowing his colors (I’m not worried), jumping (he tries so hard but just can’t get both feet off the ground at the same time!) and going to the bathroom by himself (this Mama is happy to hold off on potty training – and her sanity – for a while longer). His teachers told me he’s wonderful, nice, sweet, caring…everything Mamas like to hear.
She said if she absolutely had to critique Riley in any way, it would be that he doesn’t have the initiative to clean up after himself. For example, after he finishes eating lunch, he says “I’m done” over and over again until she clears his trash or helps him do it. I was immediately reminded of one of Dylan’s teacher conferences last year when his teacher said something eerily similar…that Dylan would sit in his seat after lunch and wait (while pouting) for someone to clear his mess.
This realization produced a big, huge ah-ha moment for me (or more accurately, an oh-crap moment). I spoil my kids. I’m not in denial. They know the difference between right and wrong (almost) but they have no idea what to do with a Swiffer except play tug of war until I take it away. Dylan is definitely learning independence (dressing himself, squeezing his own toothpaste and, God willing, washing his hands after going to the bathroom, etc.), but I don’t make the boys do anything around the house. They make messes wherever they go, and I follow them with toy bins, laundry baskets, wipes and a dust buster.
Around Mother’s Day this year, Lisa Belkin published a piece on her Motherlode blog called “Why Moms Should Quit.” The piece, with insight from syndicated radio host and author Mel Robbins, suggested that putting school-aged kids to work at home is good for them now and will make them better off in the long run. Modern motherhood shouldn’t require mothers to bear the full burden of housework, and kids (and husbands, especially ones who always leave their dirty socks on the floor in the family room…just sayin’) could learn a lot from realizing how capable they are of doing all kinds of things around the house.
I thought the piece was interesting when I read it, but I admit I also thought it was absolute crazy talk! Who would know the difference between Dylan’s socks (little) and Riley’s socks (really little)? Who would line up the milk and yogurt from oldest (front) to newest (back) in the refrigerator? Who would load the mountains of BPA-free plastic just right on the top rack of the dishwasher? There is no question my house would sink into the ground and I would end up at my own feelings doctor if I weren’t there to take care of (and complain about) every little chore.
Well, as of…right now…I’m changing my tune. My boys are a little young to let loose with detergent in the laundry room or with a hot pan on the stove, but they’re not too young to put their dirty clothes in the laundry basket, bring their plates to the sink when they’re done eating and put their %$#&@ toys away before they go to sleep! (Sorry, the toy thing is sensitive for me.) And I could certainly benefit from letting go of the obsessive-compulsive ways I demand everything be done (see previous paragraph). I’m a nut case!
I hereby declare I’m quitting…sort of. I can’t relinquish all of the housework to the boys (and men). They are young still, and child protective services (and possibly a divorce attorney) would knock on my door within a week. I can start small, though, and give them some chores and, of course, a chore chart with stickers. (Dylan has already happily requested construction truck stickers. I don’t think he realizes yet what he’s so enthusiastically getting into).
Effective immediately (May 16, 2011), Dylan and Riley are responsible for the following daily chores:
· Putting their dirty clothes in the laundry basket
· Bringing their plates, cups and bowls to the kitchen sink/counter when meals are over
· Putting ALL toys away before bedtime (Argh!)
I’ll post a picture of the new “chore chart” once the masterpiece is complete. This is an excellent new art project for Obsessive Compulsive Mama! By the time I have the boys’ teacher conferences in the fall, I hope to hear good things about their new cleaning-up skills. Oh yeah, and all that other academic stuff, too.