Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Teach your children well

So lately I've been struggling with severe spasms in my lower back and hip.  It has knocked me off my feet.  I spent most of last week in bed with a heating pad, getting up only to get my Littles to school and back again.  This week I went to a chiropractor and feel a bit better.  Still in pain, but manageable. 

Now that I feel better I also feel like I need to deal with the mess that my house has become.  Don't get me wrong, my house is usually somewhat of a mess.  Housekeeping has never been a strong suit of mine.  However, even I am uncomfortable with the level of clutter and chaos here.  I have a mountain of laundry to do, dishes piling up, floors that need to be swept and vacuumed, and groceries that need to be bought. 

Wait a minute.  I just described the condition that my home is in 90% of the time. (I told you housekeeping was not my strong suit.)  The difference now is that I can't do the work that needs to be done.  On an average day I can decide whether or not that today is going to be the day that I get things taken care of.  Today I can't do it even though it really needs to be done.

I know what you're thinking.  (I always know what you're thinking.) You're thinking, "Jeez lady, why is your house such a mess when you have a ton of Littles in the house and a Mr. Man?"  Well, let me tell you why.  Because I (and Mr. Man) have failed to involve our Littles with daily upkeep of the home.  There! I said it!  It is my our fault.

Did it take me getting injured to realize this? No.  It is something that I have been aware of and struggled with for a very long time.  The Littles do each have a job that they are responsible for, and they do it.  Most of the time. When I ask them to help do other things, however, I am usually met with resistance.

I know that young kids resisting with helping out is not all that uncommon, but I feel like they are getting to an age where it shouldn't be that hard to just be helpful.  I find myself getting frustrated and angry with them when they won't willingly help me with things.  Am I asking too much?

My answer to that is yes.  Yes I am asking too much because I am expecting them to be something they are not.  They have not had the opportunity to learn how to be helpful, because I we have not allowed them to be helpful.  There have been so many times that I have turned help away from a Little because I was sure they would not do it the 'right' way.  There have been so many times when I would allow them to help only to stop them so that I could get it done quicker.

So here I sit lay needing them to step up and help and they aren't doing it.  They are doing their own thing, which is important for them to do. is also important to be part of a family unit.  Being a part of a family unit means helping each other out.  It means stopping what your doing and getting the work done that needs to be done.

I'm not talking about taking care of my messes.  I'm talking about taking care of their own messes.  Picking up their own things, doing their own dishes, folding and putting away their own clothes and even doing their own laundry if they are old enough.  I'm talking about know how to sweep a floor or clean a countertop or even, heaven forbid, clean a toilet.

For so long it has been laid upon me, by me, that I need to take care of everything around the house.  Which is probably why I suck at it.  Who willingly wants to be in complete charge of a household with 6 children and a Mr. Man?  I didn't.  I still don't. 

I only have 4 Littles that I need to worry about now.  My oldest son and his wife are living here, but they are in the basement and they take care of themselves.  They don't leave messes for me to pick up.  If I asked my #1 or #2 Littles to help me out, I think they would do it.  I hope they would do it because they love me and don't want me to have to do things that cause me pain.  I wouldn't want them to help out simply because if they don't I will be mad at them.  I have had a tendancy in the past to react angrily when a plea for help has been ignored.

So things aren't getting done around my house.  1) Because I'm writing this blog post.  2) Because my back can only take so much before I need to take a break.  3) Because I'm patiently teaching my Littles a lesson on being part of a family unit.

That #3 reason is a biggie.  It is important and it needs to be done right.  Slowly, without judgement, shame or guilt.  They need to see that being helpful and part of a family is a beautiful thing.  That doing for others is one of the quickest ways to live their lives with their hearts wide open.  Ready to give and receive.  It is a lesson that my Not-so-Littles may have missed out on in their childhoods.  And for that I am sorry.

I'm not holding on to guilt about the way I have parented my Littles.  I we did the best that we knew how at the time.  We all do the best that we know at any given time.  I really believe that to be true.  At this time in my life I feel like things need to be different.  There needs to be a shift in my household.  A shift that will meet the needs of the family as a unit, not just the individuals living in it.  There is a balance that can be found.

Feel free to share with me any ways that you have guided your families to work together as a unit.  Any thoughts that you may have about children doing household chores are welcome.

Just my thoughts.


Anonymous said...

my Shiny, I could have written this post. Well, I really couldn't have, but this is so very my life at this moment. I'm not sure I have any answers. The hardest thing for me has been expectation. Shouldn't they just *know* how to do these things, without my guidance? I don't have time to guide, I just want it DONE. It's so very hard to keep from feeling sorry for what we HAVEN'T done. It will come, in time. As I teach them, when I have time. In the interim, my kids can't do many of these chores, or if they do, they are not done to my standard. They dislike making beds, cleaning their rooms... But, one is learning to program Flash, the other can make me dinner when needed. Both test out ahead of grade level. Yes, they need to learn to do laundry and vacuum...and it will come, in time. I smiled when I read this post, YOU are not alone. I am not alone. :) Angie

Gastenator said...

Jill--I used to be a "they can't do it because it won't be done to my standards" kind of gal. Somewhere along the lines, several years ago, I learned how to relax quite a bit.

The great thing is that it's not too late. Start out small and add more as it becomes natural. In the meantime, you can work on lowering your expectations (lol) and somewhere along the way, it should all meld nicely. :)

Linda Myers said...

So sorry about your back. Lying around gave me way too much time to think about what I ought to be doing to prepare my kids for Life.

I had the same struggle with getting help. Kids are grown now. One is fastidiously need, one a terrible slob. But both are kind men. Hopefully that was something I taught them well - more important, hopefully, than cleaning up messes.

Reyna said...

Hi! I followed you from My Voice.

It's late but I read a few of your posts and can really relate!

I have 5 children.

I am not sure of your children's ages but I do know it is never too late to teach.
I am still doing it(and learning myself)and all my children are young adults.

It could be an opportune time to get everyone (including the Man) together and tell everyone that the way you have been doing things is no longer working, and having a hurt back has made you realize that. And that now you need everyones help and support in getting some things done.

Maybe make a list of chores and let them chose one out of a basket or assign a chore that will be done daily and rotated every week.

There are lots of things, but don't give up!
Sometimes I believe it is God's way of telling us it is time for things to change. He often sees the need before we do.

It took my divorce for me to learn a lot of the lessons I have gained.

Enjoyed your blog!
And YES, you are a writer!

Stacey @ Entropified said...

I wish I had some helpful hints, but I'm pretty much in the same boat. Teaching them to help requires a lot of effort.

Just reading what you want to happen, the spirit in which they would give help, I wonder if a little family meeting might do the trick. Just make sure you're in the bed as you facilitate it :)

mermaid said...

It's interesting that your back is aching. I think of the spine as the an integral support to the body frame. If the back is aching, what support are you lacking.

Jill, may you love yourself and may you heal. May you find a way with Mr. Man to kindly teach the Littles to help, so you all can love and support one another.

KodasTotems said...

You probably don't remember this, but when I was very small Mom asked me to vacuum our room (you and I shared one at that time). My side of the room was always clean (cuz I was born a neat freak) and your side of the room was always (ahem) 'not'. I resisted, telling mom I couldn't vacuum around all your stuff. I was probably 8 at that time, you were around 11. I started to do it, albeit half-assed, in my passive protest. Mom saw I was doing it half-assed, grabbed the vacuum out of my hands in a huff and started violently kicking stuff out of the way and vacuuming to her standards (LOL). Seconds later, she blew out a lumbar disc and spent ten days in the Denver hospital in traction (that's what they did with herniated discs back then). So let that be a lesson unto you! (whatever that means...) The back injuries, the unrealistic standards, the frustration... they're all related!