Today is library day for my second-grader Jade. He brought home a Magic Treehouse book last Wednesday and was excited for me to read it to him. I tried. I really did. But somehow over the week, we never finished it and this morning I gave it back to him so that he can renew it or trade it for another. I felt like crap about it.
Then a little while later I had a revelation. I do too much for my kids. I am so busy doing too much for them that I don’t have time to do enough with them—and we all feel that failure. While I am busy folding clothes, cleaning up toys, putting away the clothes, packing snacks and homework, cooking, setting the table, clearing the table, doing the dishes, brushing teeth, bathing my beauties, searching for lost shoes, making grocery lists, etcetera... they are waiting for me and wishing for me to spend time with them. For the longest time I have felt that they are ungrateful brats for not seeing how much love goes into all of that care I provide them with. But today it occurred to me that they could be doing most of those things with me or even by themselves, thus freeing up my time so that I can give them the quality moments they yearn for.
This is not my first time around this block. I overdid it with my step-daughter TK as well... but I never noticed it because back then she was my only child and I had all the time in the world to do it all. She got bedtime stories every night, one-on-one playtime everyday and never had to lift a finger to help out until she was a teenager. I guess I always saw her as a little girl who was too young to do “my” work.
This could be because when I was a little girl, I was not allowed to help my mom around the house. That was a rule put in place to punish her and make her life as miserable as possible. At the same time, I was given jobs that your average 8 year old doesn’t have to do... like stacking cords of wood and carrying it in everyday, or helping to slaughter chickens and butcher deer, or staying hidden away in a bedroom so as not to draw the wrath of my step-beast. I never learned how to contribute to ordinary daily life and thus it never dawned on me that TK or any of my other children were and are capable of doing housework.
My kids are not going to care that they had clean clothes, packed backpacks, and dinner every night because those things are simply taken for granted. What they will remember is that mom never made time to read, Dingoes at Dinnertime. So I better get my act together and start making them do what they are capable of around the house.
I know there will be squawking and push back, and crying and whining. What I don’t know is if I have the strength to withstand all that and train them to take helping out for granted. Ha, maybe I should make a reward chart for myself where I get a sticker every time I follow through on making one of them do something helpful. When my chart is full, I can get a fancy latte and drink it up while I read a bedtime story to myself.
No, no, really... I promise to spend my time saved on them.
(Picture credit: Michele Quigley)
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