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Category Archives: chores

Crackin’ the Whip!

As I’m writing this my kids are doing their laundry.

When you first get divorced; if your time with the kids is divided, it’s very easy to slip into the mode of letting the kids mess up the house while they’re with you and then just straighten up after they leave. But at some point you recognize you’re not doing anyone any favors. Trying to keep up with all of it is near impossible. It is at that point that you suddenly realize you’re doing your kids a disservice. The excuse of “well I want to make
2014-03-22 14.31.03
the most of our time together” doesn’t wash either. We are parents, not butlers and maids. Our job is to teach our children responsibility and how to fend for themselves. If done routinely and done correctly there should be plenty of “fun time” available after everything is done.

And so their mother and I came to an agreement that Saturdays would be for getting the house in order regardless of whose house it was. As the schedule worked out, flag football is on Thursdays, softball games / practices are all on weekdays. So the weekends are wide open. And so; laundry and house cleaning is now part of the Saturday ritual; not unlike it was when I was growing up. Only in this instance the boy is actually expected to contribute. (that one is for my sisters). Each kid is responsible for their own clothes and keeping up with their things.

On the list of chores:

Laundry: No more whining because mom or dad didn’t have the right pair of jeans clean when you wanted them. It’s your responsibility. The washer and dryer are there for the family. Everyone now knows how to use it. Each has a designated time on Saturdays to do theirs. No excuses.

Rooms: With the clothes picked up, the rest of the room can be put back together including the beds.

Dishes: Each person is responsible for their own plate, glass, silverware and one additional item off of the table. They get rinsed and put in the dishwasher (neatly).

Garbage: If the garbage can is full. Empty it.

Additionally; our kids are also learning how to cook and bake. They can make breakfast including scrambled/fried eggs, sausage, pancakes and muffins. They can get their own cereal out if they like, prepare 2014-03-22 14.29.13Mac & Cheese or Rice Cups if they prefer. So long as they clean up their mess afterward. As they get older they are constantly hungry. If you want something outside the routine lunch and dinner mode; have at it.

Some of you may be saying: “Well duh! What took you so long!” But my guess is that there are plenty of you who find yourself continually picking up shoes, cereal bar wrappers, empty Goldfish boxes and water pouches, popsicle sticks etc. Spending an hour every day doing dishes. Trying to make sure each kid’s clothes end up in the right closet after coming out of the dryer. Well. The reality is there simply isn’t enough time as a single parent to do ALL of it. Especially when there are others in the house perfectly capable of doing many of the chores. The larger message here is that they are not visitors to my home or their mother’s home. We are a family and as a family we need to work together to maintain “OUR” homes. This is not a bed and breakfast or a cruise and I am not Julie your Cruise Director.

It takes patience mind you. It’s so much faster to just do it yourself. So be prepared for clothes to be folded differently, dishes to be placed in a different part of the dishwasher, beds to be made haphazardly and so on. The point isn’t for it to be done perfectly. The point is for them to get used to doing it and be a part of the family that takes care of the house. Over time things will get better. Just get them involved. That’s the goal at this point. And for them to recognize just how much effort it takes to do it all.

Now if you’ll excuse me I have to go get someone to vacuum under the coach cushions.

What type of chore systems do you have at YOUR house? Would love to hear how other dads handle it.

 

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P&G’s Epic Olympic Fail

I’d like to start by saying how much respect I have for moms and everything they (you) do for our children. That includes my ex-wife who is an amazing mom and is incredibly supportive of our kids. I’d also like to begin by stating that this is not a bitter retort on P&G’s Olympic ad campaign rather an attempt to point out how short sighted the company’s view may have been when they first conceived this brand initiative.

First I’d simply like to remind Proctor & Gamble that dads buy your products too. We’re also very much involved in encouraging our kids’ interests and dreams; sacrificing our time, money and sometimes even our careers to ensure we’re there for them every step of the way. We typically work in tandem with mom to ensure every practice is metproctor-and-gamble and every game watched. Whether we’re married, single, divorced, gay or straight, we are equally involved in helping our children pursue their dreams. This is not about who does more, it’s about everyone sharing the responsibility, the sacrifices and those precious moments of victory. Bottom line; there was a chance here to present to the world how much America still believes in working together as a family and you completely missed it.

I was under the impression that as a society, dads were becoming more and more recognized for how involved they are in their kids’ lives. How many soccer practices, dance rehearsals, volleyball matches, drama club meetings and countless other weekly if not daily events they get their kids to. The endless lunches, dinners, snacks, loads of laundry, doctors visits and bedtime stories they’re responsible for. How many times they volunteer to coach, mentor and encourage not only their own kids but their neighbor’s kids as well. Again, not taking away from what moms do, I simply can’t fathom why P&G felt it a good idea to single out one side of such an important equation rather than take this opportunity to encourage more dads to be a part of their kids lives as I believe kids need both their mom AND dad involved.

I’m going to bet that a good majority of moms rely on their spouses or ex’s to be a part of the team. An important word that seems to have been ignored by P&G for a sporting event by the way; team. Show me a dad who hasn’t cried procter_gamble_prodthe first time he saw his daughter complete a routine during a skating competition. Point me to a father who hasn’t had an out of body experience after watching his son or daughter score their first goal. By ignoring this half of the population and parental team (there’s that word again) P&G is not only ignoring an enormous piece of their profit pie, but they’re subtly insinuating that dad was too uninterested to take time to watch his kid’s practice.

As someone who has personally thrown thousands of pitches to my daughter, hit endless pop flies, tossed a million footballs, gotten up at 6 am to run 2 miles with my 8-year-old, and sat with all the other moms and dads for hours on a Saturday during dance rehearsals I can tell you my contributions are only a fraction of what many dads do. I have friends who drive hundreds of miles to their daughter’s gymnastics competitions and still others who coach travel baseball and softball teams which requires a commitment of 6-7 days a week for months on end. And when mom is the one driving the kids to practice, there’s a good chance it’s dad who’s at home doing the laundry and putting the dishes away.

P&G would no doubt respond by saying, “we aren’t discounting the efforts of dads.” And I’m sure that wasn’t by any means their intent. The problem with the campaign is the lack of understanding it shows for the struggles many fathers go through when fighting to even see their kids every other weekend. Or the perception of the role of fathers when they face a judge during a custody battle. Or how important it is that we take every opportunity to encourage those dads who may NOT be involved to care and take an interest in their children. To you it’s a celebration of mom, to me it’s a two generation step backward in our society’s growth in understanding the importance of a father in a child’s life. Proctor & Gamble, you had an amazing opportunity to celebrate the importance of family and everyone who is involved in advancing the dreams of our children not to mention how important it is to be not just a family, but a team regardless of how you define family. Why you chose the direction of your campaign I honestly don’t know, but I will tell you I’m personally deducting major points and will strongly consider leaving your product on the podium during my next trip to the grocery store, a trip I typically take with three kids in tow btw.

 

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Get It Right The Third Time!

Would you expect your nine-year-old to start playing a Chopin concerto perfectly on the piano the first time? How many hours of practicing would you expect him/her to need in order to get it right? And yet how often do we get upset with our kids when they don’t act correctly or follow directions the first time?

My recent push to have the kids do the dishes together after dinner made me stop and recognize how important it is to provide them with opportunities to practice not just what they do but how they do it and whoIT-simple-mistakes they do it with. Our first go around was rough. (Boy … was it rough). Each kid wanted to lead. Or should I say, didn’t want the others to lead. Perhaps their goal was for me to give up on the entire idea and just say, “fine, you guys go play and I’ll clean up.” But by the ninth or tenth time they started to get into a rhythm. They started to figure out that either way it was going to happen, so they may as well make it fun. And they did. They each made mistakes (I have a picture of a very soapy floor to prove it). But learned to help each other work through the mistakes rather than point fingers.

How many soccer games did your child play before they started to figure out how to pass rather than go after the ball with everyone else on the field?

I’m grooming my oldest for baby sitting the other two; giving her opportunities to watch them for five, ten, fifteen minutes at a time. The first few times it’s resulted in a revolt due to a lack of communication and lack of understanding of how everyone needs to work together. But what a tremendous learning experience for every single one of them, including me. After each instance we sit down and discuss what worked and what didn’t. Hopefully over time, they’ll each learn the best way to respond to each other to ensure an enjoyable experience.

Even something as simple as the morning routine, i.e. getting ready for school, getting dressed, fed, out the door on time; has taken a long time to nail down. Oh sure, you can try to get things together the night before. mistakesBut kids change their minds or forget socks. Or neglect to inform you of a form that needs to be filled out, waiting until you’re closing the door. Learning how to work together and pace yourself properly and work through the stress of the morning rush takes practice.

But how many times do we throw up our arms and give up when it doesn’t work the first time? “I knew this would happen!” “I knew this was a mistake!” “What were you thinking?!” “Why did I think I could trust you?!” “Obviously you’re not ready for this kind of thing!” So easy to just spew the negative and make our kids feel like incompetent idiots isn’t it?

I, like you, struggle with providing them emotional room to grow and learn. To build their confidence through the fine art of screwing up. How difficult it is to encourage our kids to make mistakes and teach them that being wrong is OK and simply part of the process. Especially when it directly affects our own routine or deadlines. But keep in mind that even Einstein knew the power of making mistakes. I believe he’s quoted as saying, “Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.”

Yes it typically means a lot of cleaning up, or buying a “new one.” But I believe there is a cost to progress, both financially and emotionally. I always tell my kids, “It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.” I mean that in terms of both a project and the day itself. If we can lay our head on the pillow high-fiving each other, regardless of any arguments or lapses in judgement that took place, then it was a good day. If we can rest knowing we learned something from our mistakes and that we’re better prepared for the next time, then it was indeed a success.

Bottom line; the goal shouldn’t be to get it right the first time. The goal should be to learn how to do it differently until you get it right.

 

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Aloysius – Come Do The Dishes!

It’d been coming for some time. I actually wish I’d started sooner. And there may be some bumpy roads moving forward as some of it sinks in and we work out the kinks, but I’m already beginning to see the benefits.

I’m talking of course about having the kids do the dishes after dinner.

As proud as I was of the fact that we always sat down for dinner as a family. And as much as I enjoy cooking for the kids, (Sunday brunch is a staple), it was time to step it up a bit. The kids always asked to be excused and were good about clearing their spot, but then they’d retreat to the computer or the TV whilst I did the dirty-dishesdishes, put everything away and wiped down the counter tops.

During their last stay I let them know what was coming. I let them know that the next time they were with me they’d be responsible, as a team, for cleaning up after dinner. “BUT DAADDDD! that’s so not fair!” To which i replied; “No, what’s not fair is one person attempting to keep up with all household chores while everyone else plays Minecraft, watches TV and listens to their i-pod.” (It really wasn’t quite that dramatic, but I had to beef it up for the sake of an interesting blog post).

So, as planned, the first evening of their next time with me we moved forward with the new schedule. And after a lovely chicken, beans, mashed potatoes and cucumber dinner, I asked to be excused and reminded them that they would be cleaning up. I suggested they divide the duties (one clear, one load the dishwasher and one wipe down) and let them at it while retreating to the couch to watch some football and observe from a distance.

It took all of about three minutes for the calm resolve to evaporate into thin air and be replaced by arguing and whining. I have a family of leaders, so following doesn’t always come naturally and requires a bit of practice. But they made it through and all in all did a pretty good job. My favorite part of the experience was mid-way through when the middle child asked me in a stern tone, “Dad! Why don’t you get over here and help?” To which I replied, “So you can see what it’s like to be working hard cleaning up someone else’s mess while they run off and play.” Didn’t really fly, but hey I was trying to make a point. I had been trying to explain to them for months how much it took to keep the house in half way decent shape and felt this was an important experience for them. And now they could experience it first hand.

Once the point was made, the next time we did it all together. We would, as a family, take care of our home. There was still the occasional, “I hate this,” or “This is so HARD.” But we muddled through and cleaned up as a family. And the truth is, they often help clean the house, vacuum, pick up their rooms, etc. But nothing very routine. This was a chance to not only teach them responsibility, but also about working as a family team.

Kids-Learning-to-Clean-the-Kitchen-My hope is that over time this will simply become routine and that they’ll grow to embrace taking ownership of things. As a matter of fact, even last night I found the oldest cleaning up the bathroom and picking up her room. So perhaps a glimmer of hope.

I think being responsible takes practice for many. I know plenty of 30 somethings who have a hard time keeping up with a home. Hell, I usually have a few pair of socks lying around. The point is, I don’t want my kids to be one of those people. I also want them all to know how to take care of themselves; boys and girls. My dad, who’s name happens to be Aloysius hence the title of this post, can’t boil water. That won’t be my son.

We all like to preach about teamwork, but rarely do we follow through. When you’re busy it takes a real effort to do things at a somewhat slower pace and perhaps not exactly the way you’d like it. They will make mistakes and they will complain. But I think any negatives will give way to a sense of belonging and understanding that they aren’t visitors. This is their home as much as it is mine. And I want them to learn to understand that they’re part of a team. We’ll work together and we’ll reap the benefits together. When we go to Target and they get to pick out something they want, I want them to recognize that they’ve earned it. It’s not just being handed to them. I personally believe they’ll appreciate things more and will work together better outside the kitchen once the’ve realized the benefits of everyone chipping in.

That’s the hope at least. Will keep you updated on the progress.

Peace!

 

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Pine-sol be Damned!

When we’re married, we each take on different roles within the relationship. Usually some are more stereotypical than others. When I was married, for example, my wife was the one who focused a lot of attention on the state of the household. If it got messy I may have noticed, but it didn’t stress me out. It did however have the potential to affect my ex’s mood. This was especially true when there were socks, shoes, pants, shorts, toys, games, underwear, empty water pouches, legos, cereal bar wrappers, candy wrappers etc. strewn
pine-sol throughout the house. (The kids were even worse). Regardless, I never fully appreciated this fact until I became a single father.

When the duty of keeping up with the house was squarely on my shoulders, I greeted it with ignorant bliss. “How hard can this be?!!!” I said. What was the big deal? Finally I’d have the chance to let our house be a home. No more nagging about picking up things, bottle caps on the counter, a stray potato chip on the floor, jackets hung on the chair; who cares! Pine-sol be damned!

Then, as life continued to take my schedule to higher, more deafening levels, I started to notice that I would become increasingly annoyed by the smallest of specs on the floor. A dog hair on the couch, Barbies in every room of the house, finding ten towels in a bedroom, or dishes under a bed. All of it really started to get under my skin. It was insanity … INSANITY I SAY!

What was happening to me? Who was I? I heard myself saying things I’d only heard my mother say. (OK … and my ex-wife). The stress of keeping up with every aspect of my life only to come home to a mess was starting to get to me and it was only a matter of time before something had to give.

That’s when I had a breakthrough. The reality is, for me anyway, that it’s not so much about the house being clean as it is about my life being in order. A recent rain day tells the story perfectly. Between softball, soccer, a full time job, freelance projects, personal time etc., a lot of things had fallen by the waist side and I felt completely buried. I felt beyond overwhelmed and for the first time in my life, I was embarrassed to allow any of my kids’ friends into the house because of the shape it was in.

Then one Saturday, a heavy rain cancelled a full day of sporting events. And so, the kids and I took advantage of the day to tackle the house. Everything else was put on the back burner. Work, sports, friends, all of it. The kids took on their rooms and helped wipe things down and clean windows. I began to purge all the extra “stuff” that had accumulated on the counters, on chairs, dressers etc. And together we reclaimed the house.

It is impossible to explain to you the difference it made having the house put together. Mind you, it wasn’t perfect, and still isn’t for that matter. But for the most part, it was much more presentable, comfortable, much
MV5BMTE5Njk5MzUyNF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTYwODY2NDM2._V1._SX450_SY518_less cluttered and frankly felt more homey. Even the kids took notice. Oddly enough it was my son who walked by the Pine-sol loaded sink proclaiming, “I LOVE that smell!

For me, the true value was what it did to my mental state. The foundation of order had been set. And suddenly all the other life stuff felt manageable for the simple reason that my home base was in order. It no longer felt like my entire world was unraveling. It honestly felt like clearing the clutter within our house, helped clear the clutter in my head if that makes any sense.

As a single parent, whether you have the kids every other weekend or if you happen to be the primary, life takes on a whole new level of craziness when it’s all on you, especially after you’ve been accustomed to sharing the load. It can at times be incredibly overwhelming. And it all starts with the place you spend the majority of your time, your home. Frankly, having at least that one element of my world in check made all the difference in the world.

So guys; take note. (And some of you already know this). But there is more to having a clean home than having a clean home. There is the sense of accomplishment and a feeling of “having it together” that comes with it. There is a sense that you’re not completely unraveling, that on some level, you’re holding it together. And yes, it brings peace of mind which translates to a greater ability to righten the rest of the ship. Keep in mind, I’m not suggesting you channel Felix Ungar rather, just acknowledging an appreciation for the power of order within, what can be, a world of chaos.

Oh, and yes, the power of Pine-sol (who I promise you is not sponsoring this blog … yet).

 

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