This will probably not rank high on his list of favorite childhood memories. Right now he is upstairs scrubbing not only the toilet in his bathroom, but also the one in mine. Much to his credit, he is doing this without complaining. I doubt I’ll have the same experience when my eleven year old daughter goes upstairs to scrub the sinks. Whatever. Thankfully, making kids enjoy chores is not part of my job. This is a good thing, since I haven’t even figured out to to make myself enjoy chores.
Here is what my job as a mother actually requires:
- Make sure my kids know that they are loved, valuable, and good enough.
- Keep my children safe from known dangers.
- Teach my children the skills necessary to live as an adult in the world.
Here is what my job DOES NOT require, though a lot of people think it should:
- Make everyday an exciting adventure filled with new discoveries that are powered and provided by ME.
- Keep my children safe from every danger in the whole world, whether imagined or real, including dangers that may be extremely rare, or may result in only emotional upset or displeasure.
- Do absolutely everything that needs to be done in my home, singlehandedly, so that my children can grow up remembering what a lovely, relaxing respite home can be, without having to think that such surroundings require time, work or planning.
I’m not running a Disneyland resort here, people. MY job is not to provide for their every whim and desire. That’s the impetus to become rich and famous. Every minute of every day is not going to be filled with engaging experiences worthy of Pinterest. Sometimes my children are going to be required to empty the dishwasher, or clean out the litter box, or, god forbid, clean the toilets, and the only reward will be my thanks and respect. Hello: Real Life.
Being a parent is hard. I think it’s harder now than it’s ever been. I recognize the ridiculousness of this proclamation. I’ve shared my thoughts on our need to feel like everything is harder for us than it has been for everyone else. But there is no denying that this era of “attachment parenting” and “helicopter parenting” has caused us to believe that we should be in complete control of our kids’ experiences; ready to make each one enriching and joyful; ever vigilant lest they experience boredom, or hurt feelings, or (gasp) failure.
Knowing how to handle boredom, and mean people, and failure, as well as how to clean a toilet and work a washing machine – these are the things that successful adults know how to do. Lets face it folks, there’s a bunch of stuff we probably aren’t going to be able to teach our kids, not because we don’t want to, only because there are some things only experience can deliver. Things like how to survive heartbreak, how to share the bed, how to program an iPhone8. Despite our best efforts, when our children leave the nest, we are still going to worry that they aren’t well enough equipped. Hell, I worry that I am not well enough equipped.
But there are some skills I’m pretty sure will still be useful in the world to come. Even the world according to Apple. Take crossing the street for example. There are parents in Maryland who’ve come under fire for allowing their two children (ages 10 & 6) to walk together approximately 3/4 of a mile down the road to the playground and then play together. You’ve heard of this, right? Here’s what I thought when I read this story:
- If ten-years-old is too young to expect a kid to look both ways before crossing the street, what exactly, is the appropriate age? Thirteen; when Facebook decrees they are old enough to spread their business worldwide? Sixteen; when we put them behind the wheel of a deadly vehicle?
- My three-year-olds know how to hold hands and stick together. Are my kids just unusually advanced? If my four-year-old is looking at her younger sisters, saying, “Wait.. wait… Ok, it’s safe to go now,” should I sign her up for Mensa? I mean, the world is shocked that a ten-year-old can do this for his six-year-old sister. Does that say something about my kids, or something about the world?
- If the Meitivs had chosen instead to say, “I know it’s a beautiful day and there’s a playground just down the way, but we have grown-up stuff to do, so you need to go in the living room and play more Xbox,” would the wrath of child services have rained down on them? Why not? Which does more to foster a healthy child: letting them outside to play, or keeping them “safely” cooped up with a screen?
- Who, in their right mind, would kidnap TWO children at the same time? Guys, despite what Criminal Minds tells you, the world is actually a safer place now than it was a few decades ago. For more info click here. Not only that, but I’ve had two kids at the same time. Believe me, it doesn’t make for a fun weekend, especially if you aren’t head over heels for them on account of them being YOURS. I was unable, in forty-five minutes online, to find ONE case that involved the stranger abduction of two children simultaneously. I did however, find this study that suggests the number of stranger abductions of all children in a recent year was 115. That’s less than the number of children who died from the flu (see here) and yet, we still take our children to grocery stores, YMCA nurseries, and church, without feeling like we are putting them in danger.
If I had a playground within walking distance, you can bet my big kids would be walking there. They’d probably skip down the street, holding hands, if it meant they could get out of cleaning the bathroom.