I know, the holidays are already so hectic and busy! There’s so much extra cooking and cleaning, and you say I should add my children to that mix? I often have to fight the impulse to protect myself! I mean, I already have so much work to do and usually when my kids “help” that just creates more mess for me to clean up! Why would I want to add more stress to an already intense season?
However, I’ve begrudgingly come to realize that this is the wrong attitude.
This self-preservation impulse is actually rather shortsighted, unfair to my kids and causes me to sell myself short in the end as well. I want my children to learn how to actually, legitimately, help with housework. Yes, because it can make my life a bit easier but also because they will need to know how to fold laundry before college age.
How can I possibly expect them to learn these skills if every time they ask, I tell them no because I’m too busy? Then I simultaneously complain that I have to do all of the work. The only way they will understand how to wash dishes is if I let them handle real dishes. How can I expect them to grasp the proper way of doing laundry if they don’t ever actually handle real clothes? They will not learn anything about how to cook if they are never exposed to food and how to prepare it safely.
They will never truly grasp how messy a house can become, not to mention the importance of keeping it clean, if they are never responsible for any of the scrubbing, wiping or rinsing.
Now, in case there is any concern regarding the above-mentioned tasks, I am by no mean advocating an unstructured, unmonitored approach to this teaching endeavor. I do still have to teach them how to do these tasks, and this does create more work for me in the short run. I have to constantly fight off the thought that it would just be so much faster and easier if I just cleaned the bathroom sinks myself or did the dishes. And it would be, but only in the short run. If I constantly indulged this thought, all that would result is that my kids would never learn to take responsibility and as they grew older, my frustration would only increase, and they would resent the sudden insistence that they now help me.
The other day my son asked if he could help me clean the bathroom sinks because he noticed that there was quite a lot of accumulated toothpaste on the counter. I had to stay by him and show him how to do it properly. I often had to point out the places he had missed. It took a while, but he did it and was delighted to have helped. It was worth the extra time and hassle on my part.
So many aspects of parenting affect life way beyond the immediate picture or moment. I don’t want my kids to learn just the practical life skills. I hope for so much more for them. I desperately want them to be kind, observant and thoughtful people who seek to meet needs when they see them, without waiting to be asked. I pray and hope to build their character, to help them notice and truly see others and their needs. Starting in the home with our immediate family is the best place to begin.
Kindness and empathy are traits that also honor God, as we seek to step outside ourselves and serve others, just as Christ taught. As frustrating as it can be, I think God has put us in a unique position as mothers, to especially teach this beautiful lesson.
Recently I was hurriedly trying to finish dinner. I was on a strict timeline, as my husband had to leave for a meeting and I really wanted us to all eat together. Due to my hurried pace and preoccupation with the food, I failed to notice that the drier had stopped. My six-year-old daughter, however, had noticed. She came and told me excitedly that she would start to sort the clothes in their respective piles. I wanted to rush in and tell her to wait until I could get there, even though, we have worked on this tap together many times and she is pretty accurate as to whose clothing she is sorting. Thankfully I restrained that desire and you what?? She did a good job! I only had to re-sort a couple of articles of clothing.
She had seen that I was busy with dinner and took it upon herself, unasked, to meet a need! How silly would it have been to stifle her in this, for my short-term benefit? As always seems to happen, my kids are constantly teaching me more than I feel I am teaching them. I tho God orchestrates it that way, so we will continue to rely on Him.
So in this upcoming season of extra cooking, cleaning, laundry and family visits, let’s include our kids in the work. Maybe it will actually lighten your own load in ways you never would have imagined. I know it has in my case.