Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The President's Day Lesson

Holidays from school--it seems like they come so frequently now.  When I was a kid, we had Spring Break, Christmas Break, Labor Day and Memorial Day.  Now kids have national holidays, Fall Break, April Break (politically correct phrase for Easter Break), school holidays, teacher work days . . . they're out of school more often than they're in school, it seems.

Yesterday was President's Day (remember the day where we made silhouettes of Lincoln and Washington . . . DURING school?), and the day started slow around these parts, with sleeping in late, cartoons before chores, no formal breakfast.  Brad and I had a list of things that needed to be accomplished--and for some reason, our kids were not in agreement that their holiday should be spent working in the yard, cleaning underneath couches, straightening toy cupboards or folding laundry.  Weird, huh?

Teaching kids to work is hard and long and annoying. Brad enlisted kid help in the yard for part of the morning, and I wielded the whip inside.  I don't remember the last time I was so frustrated while trying to get my kids to work. Does any of this sound familiar to you?

  • whining every time they were asked to do something
  • distracted by books, toys, siblings, music, etc.
  • moving stuff from one place, only for Mom to discover it discarded somewhere else
  • shoving stuff in drawers, under tables, to avoid putting it away
  • throwing things away to make them disappear (THIS REALLY GOT ME ANGRY, let me say)
  • just puttering around until Mom or Dad caught them
I calculated it out, and just yesterday alone, my kids squandered over five HOURS of time having to redo or refocus on their work.  When I pointed out that amount of time during our family night lesson, they were quiet.  What could we have done as our family with five extra hours yesterday?  I wish we had gone hiking the wind caves or picnicking at the park or driving through the desert, and I'm sure they wished they had been playing with friends or . . . anything besides working all day long.

I learned an important lesson as the mom yesterday.  You'd think after parenting for so many years that I would have a few things mastered, but I find that to be incorrect.  I realized yesterday that my kids need less instruction and more demonstration.  They need me near them with  helping hands instead of lording over them as the master.  They need help in the trenches and encouraging words to keep them on task . . . even the older ones.

When I am teaching them to work, I need to shorten my own to-do list and focus on them, instead of seeing my time teaching them as an impediment to my productivity.  I need to be more aware of what they're doing and when they do it, instead of waiting until fifteen minutes later when my wrath has boiled over and they've forgotten what they had been doing to incur Mom's wrath.

It's hard to look around and see other families who seem to have both clean houses and yards, plus plenty of time to play with their families.  I made a conscious decision yesterday that I want to carve out more time for our family to play together, instead of our time together almost always spent working and cajoling them to work.

And ponies have rainbow tails, right?  I can always dream . . .


  1. Teaching kids to work is not for the faint of heart!

    I struggle with it, too, but if I remember two things it tends to go more smoothly. I try to do my chores a different time so I can work alongside the kids (you mentioned this). Also, I try to lay out very specific chores with expectations at the beginning of our work-fest. This didn't occur to me until my husband told me once that the worst part of chores when he was a kid was when he would finish a job and think he was through, only to have his mother pile on something else. My kids dig a written list.

  2. I think what really happens is that sometimes it works (Yay!) and sometimes it just...doesn't... It's not likely to be totally consistent until they're older with homes of their own. I know that's how it worked with me. And most of my kids. I have a couple who are, how shall we say... free spirits when it comes to cleaning up. I think it's just their personality. Plus their dad's sloppiness is legendary, and I guess that trumped my neatness!

  3. PS - Their dad is not LaMar - let's be clear on that. LaMar's NEATNESS is legendary.

  4. I can remember when I was young and Mom would get in what I called her "cleaning mood."

    Sometimes I used to grab a book and hide.


  5. Its sometimes about our expectations, huh. We think we are caving if we lower the bar a bit, but I think that sometimes its just about making things easier for everyone:)

    Growing up my room was always a mess, like a pig sty...my parents tried everything...now my house is the cleaniest of all my siblings. Exactly the way my moms house looked growing up. Modeling....hmmmm:)

  6. Always works better to work alongside the kids and much more fun, too.

  7. I love this post, and these comments. So often this is just what happens at my house! I love Melinda's suggestion of a written list. Not only do things go more smoothly because they know exactly what is going to be done, we avoid the "He/She's not working" if they all have a specific job (i.e.-K: Toilets, Q: Tubs/showers, T: Sinks & Counters, etc...) they seem to work better. I think it's knowing they're in control of how long they they spend working. If they want to be done quickly they can!

    I also LOVE what Gabe said, it gives me hope for my only daughter....

  8. This sounds like my house. If only they would roll up their sleeves, do what's asked them, they would have so much time to do what they want. But it almmost never works out that way.

  9. they're gonna remember the work AND the play time as a family, i assure you. my siblings and i used to grumble and mumble when my father put us to work during our teens. today i'm pretty proud of my work ethic and handyman knowledge. you're doing GREAT! kids don't start cheering their appreciation for your parenting awesomeness for at least a few more years :)

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