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 dishes, 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.
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.