As Patrick goes back to work, I’ve been saying (and mulling over the fact) that the children will simply have to help more around the house. Two people working just means there are not as many hours to get housework done, and there’s still the same amount of work (or more) to do. Lots of people say, “Oh children can unload a dishwasher” but we don’t have a dishwasher. So how to get them to help? I read this article a few days ago: “Happy Children Do Chores” in the New York Times, and it got me thinking about how much they can feel good about if they feel like their work contributes to the household. There were some good reminders about how to teach chores will take time and patience from the parent and that children need to feel independent when they do them. (It also said don’t pay them for doing chores…) So armed with that knowledge, and aware of the fact they already help dry dishes after dinner, I decided to give them some work today. Seamus got dishes, Gilbert got laundry.

There were hiccups. At first, they felt like it was punishment, but as I worked on other housework neat them, they felt better. I told Seamus directions and let him do it, and he did a great job with the four bowls, one plate, many spoons, and couple of glasses that were the breakfast dishes. He stacked them neatly in the drain. (I put them away later.) Gilbert brought in the laundry, started it, and took laundry from the dryer to the couch. He wasn’t happy about it, and I had to remind him four or five times to get all his clothes out of the pile and put them away. He also had to pick up all the books on the floor of his room. At lunch (5 hours later), I gave Seamus 30 cents and told him how carefully and cleanly he’d washed the dishes. I said, “I’m not going to pay you every time, because I expect that you’ll help out, but occasionally, I’d like to show you that I think you’ve done well.” So I might have messed up the system (but I’m so grateful for the help!!!). He hopped up and said he’d like to wash the lunch dishes too. And he did.

Gilbert got angry that Seamus had been praised, and I asked him to come help with the laundry. I said, “You do have to help. That’s just how things will work now.” So he came in, learned how to clean the lint screen, got the step stool and moved clothes from the washer to the dryer. He spun the barrel many times and was goofing around, but I breathed deeply, exercised patience, and let him take however long it took to move them over. At one point he said, “How long does this take?!” and I said, “I don’t know, but because you’re doing it, I’m able to cut up this cantaloupe for Harlan, so thank you.” He finally finished, and I showed him how to start the dryer. We put a sticker by the usual settings so he’d know where the knob should be. Then he said, “What’s next?” I said, “Can you go get Harlan and Porter’s basket and bring it in to wash?” He did, then added his and Seamus’s basket to the load, and then I showed him how you always look around for stray laundry, and he found some PJ pants and his pants that were dirty from sliding in the mud yesterday in the bathroom to wash as well. We followed the same sticker procedure again for the washer, and he put the detergent in on his own (he had to measure it…we don’t use pods). After returning the laundry basked, he wanted more chores, but we were kind of fresh out.

I put the two younger boys to nap, and Seamus and Gilbert and I sat down to play Puerto Rico (a very complicated game that they love because you don’t know who’s winning until the end). I gave them each some cantaloupe and a cookie, and thanked them for showing so much maturity as they learned their chores. I heard Seamus whisper to Gilbert, “See? It all pays off.” That made me laugh, and I know it won’t always be perfect, but if…and this is a big if…I can get Seamus to wash the breakfast dishes (which are usually pretty simple) and Gilbert to put in a load of laundry before school (and we do at least one load a day), my life will be much more manageable next year!

Clean lunch dishes, courtesy of Seamus. Washer going in the back ground, thanks to Gilbert!

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