Monday, March 26, 2007

On Parenting

Sometimes it's hard to be a parent (well, actually, it is pretty hard in myriad ways all the time, but I digress). Aside from discipline, love, play, school, etc., it's hard just knowing when to let go enough to let your kid grow. For example, last night Rachel was sick, I was trying to study for a math exam (ick!) I have this week, and supper needed to be fixed and the kitchen was a total wreck. So, since Jamie has helped on several occassions with the dishes, I decided he was old enough to rinse the dishes and load the dishwasher by himself.

Now, as much as I love my son, he has this really annoying habit of doing something wrong on purpose, asking a million questions about if he did it right, in the hopes that I'll get exasperated and tell him to just move and let me do it. Well, last night it finally dawned on me that letting him get away with that wasn't only making more work for me, but it was also doing him a disservice, as he would grow up expecting somebody else to step in and take over any time he messes up (on purpose or otherwise). So, I squashed my impulse to just step in and do it, and made him finish the job. But it was HARD. He dawdled, hemmed and hawed, water went running all the way down to the other end of the counter, but still, I insisted that he do it.

Then he asked in a whiny voice, "Why do I have to do this?" My reply was that he has to do what I ask him to do because he's old enough to start helping around the house more. I also said that since Rachel and I are both working and going to school, if we're going to have a house that doesn't look like a pigsty, EVERYONE has to pitch in and help. Then he tried to make a smart-butt comment about Destiny not doing the dishes. I replied, no, but she is expected to pick up her toys when she's done playing with them, and put movies back on the shelf after watching them. That helps keep the house clean. All he said was, "Oh." Then he finished loading the dishes in the dishwasher, and I told him how to run it.

I wish I had the luxury of not expecting so much out of him. I wish I didn't always have to put a load of responsibility on his shoulders. However, that's not realistic. Our household right now requires that everyone pitches in. I know, in the long run, this is good for his character, rather than letting him loll around the house all day with no responsibilities. I know several children at his school whose parents don't make them do any chores or have any responsibility, and they are total brats! But still, sometimes I wonder if I'm not taking away from his opportunity to "let the kid be a kid" when I have to expect so much from him. Due to family circumstances, my brother and I didn't really get to be children, we had to be tiny adults. I always swore it would be different for my child(ren).

So, now I'll open the floor to your thoughts and experiences on the subject. Comments anyone?


Undercover Angel said...

There is absolutely nothing wrong with having your children help around the house - you aren't robbing them of a childhood. You in fact are teaching them independance skills that will help them in life when they get older and move away from home. It's important that we teach our kids how to keep a house clean, and eventually how to cook or they'll never make it on their own later...

They may argue, beg and cry to get out of helping, but stick to your guns, because after all - you're only making them do it for their own good...

Jenn-Jenn, the Mother Hen said...

Thanks, Angel, for your input. Nice to "blog meet" you by the way!

Animal said...

Well Jenn, I'm not "there" yet, but I can't IMAGINE a household in which kids don't help out! Maybe that's just showing my age, but that's my experience and that's what Roslyn's gonna get. Hell, how else does a kid earn an allowance? You give her some easy things to do (i.e., the dishes, or loading & running the dishwasher), you make her understand that as a person who LIVES in the house she's now old enough to start having a stake in the UPKEEP of the house, and then you tie that into the concept of a little money, which also teaches the idea of how earning money comes from working.

Gah! I was driven to distraction by your claim that other kids at Jamethan's school don't have "chores." Sheesh.

Jenn-Jenn, the Mother Hen said...

It's not so much the fact that he has to do chores that bothers that part of me that wants him to be a carefree kid. It's how many chores I have him do, plus all the other little disappointments and incidentals that he's learning/learned much earlier than anyone else.

For instance, here's his chores list:
1. take out garbage 2x weekly; take out recycle bin 1x weekly
2. take care of Ziggy (dog)
3. dishes (sometimes helping me, sometimes (like last night) by himself
4. helps me sort laundry
5. helps me fold, hang and put away laundry
6. helps keep an eye on Destiny when both adults are busy cooking, schoolwork, etc.
7. Anything else that he's capable of helping with and I need help with at the time.

Oh, and that whole allowance thing? Like as not, he gets no actual money for doing this stuff. Usually, he just gets a promise of a toy or such (less than $10) next time we go to Wally World. If he's good at school, with good grades and no conduct issues for a whole month, he gets a once-a-month trip to someplace special, like Build-a-Bear Workshop, the museum, the zoo, Mr. Gatti's, etc. I also occassionally give him a couple bucks here and there as I have it, but not too often.

Now, once I finish up my degree (soon, SOON!) I'll be able to get a better paying job and can afford to pay him an allowance. Oh, happy day!

ann said...

NO GUILT!! NO NO!! I think what you're doing is awesome! I wish I'd had more chores as a kid, sincerely!! You are creating an independent, responsible person. He'll be a "servant leader." How is he going to learn about the world? Somebody's just going to tell him how it works? He needs to experience that stuff. You're not asking him to pay bills or go find out what's trying to get in teh house in teh middle of the night, you're giving him "respons-abilities"--in other words, you're teaching him to be able to resond to situations. Dirty dishes get washed. Antsy dog gets walked. Clean laundry gets folded. He is able to respond properly to those situations. That's how he learns to meet his own needs and to take care of the world around him. And kids will be kids--while they're walking the dog, while they're washing the dishes...I remember dreading washing the dishes. I always thought I was going to do it wrong, but once I figured out a way that worked for me, I was really proud of myself. I also really enjoyed the process of washing them--bringing order to my world. Please don't feel guilty for parenting your child. Feel guilty when you're not parenting your child.

Jenn-Jenn, the Mother Hen said...

Thank you all for the support and encouragement. Sometimes, the hardest thing you have to do as a parent is to be the responsible adult and make your kid grow up to be a responsible adult, too. Thank you all again for showing me I'm being a good/responsible momma, not a mean, workaholic mother.

Anonymous said...

Hey super-mom! You are doing a wonderful thing by teaching Jamie how to be a responsible person (kid and, later, adult). Chores are important, and you do not need to carry the entire load of running the house under the guise of "allowing a kid to be a kid." Kids can contribute and still be kids. His future wife and family will thank you for it. He will thank you (eventually) for it. Keep up the great work, woman! We miss you!

Jenn-Jenn, the Mother Hen said...

Hey, Tiff! How's it going? Miss you guys, too. Thanks for the encouragement. Sometimes I feel like I must be the world's most terrible mother. It's nice to hear that I'm not an ogre just because I expect a lot from Jamethan.

How are your kids? Life? Etc?

Just Julez said...

I hope this doesn't sound harsh, but I believe it is our job as parents to raise our children to not need us. All 3 of my boys know how to do laundry (including ironing), cook a decent meal (even Alex), and how to completely groom a dog. I think insisting that they help around the house in the end helps them to manuever as part of a team, and teaches them personal responsibility and consideration for others (don't get a fresh glass because you know what a pain it is to deal with washing dishes, etc.). The oldest two hated me for it then. They love me for it now :)

Becca said...

You know how my mom is a little OCD? Well, she would give me chores to do as a kid--washing dishes, folding laundry, that kind of thing. After I'd finish, she'd come back and do it over because I didn't scrub the pots with the right scrubbie, or fold the towels the right way. I didn't understand why what I did was never good enough, so I stopped doing chores altogether. I told her flat out there was no point if she was just going to come back and do it anyway. And since it was a compulsive thing and she couldn't help but correct me, I got away with doing nothing because it was easier than fighting over it.

So, I'm a grown woman who doesn't know how to load a dishwasher correctly, can't do a load of laundry even with the cheat sheet on the washer lid, and isn't good at keeping house in the slightest. Luckily for me my husband is very skilled and does those things while I take care of bills, household errands, maintenance, and doctor appointments.

Jamie is unlikely to find a great husband like Tom, so I'd say make him do these things so he learns (he;s certainly old enough to have chores as a general responsibility) and don't correct him. Let him do it his way and don't jump in when he gets exasperated. Don't correct him solely on preference.

Basically, don't turn your son into a slug like me : )

Call me crazy since CJ is only 2, but I'm already teaching him to pick up toys before pulling out others and put his dirty clothes in the laundry. From watching us, he throws garbage away and helps load and unload the dishwasher. He's been known to put dirty clothes in a basket and drag it to the washer and carry garbage bags to the garage door. I don't make him do these things, but I encourage the emulation since he's having fun and learning important things, and in a few years, these will become his "jobs" in the house, along with whatever else he can help with. Isn't this why we have kids, for the cheap labor?


Jenn-Jenn, the Mother Hen said...

He's great at "fetching" stuff for me!