August 19, 2015

Sharing is Caring

No, this isn't an article on teaching your children to share their toys, but it is about how sharing can and is a form of caring for one another. What I'm talking about here is work and responsibility sharing. Perhaps not the most fun form of sharing, at least at first, but it's one of the most important ones we as parents have to teach our children.

I've made no secret about the fact we expect our girls to help out around the house. They've been putting their toys away since they were two, and they've learned how to do a couple of new things each year. It's my job as their mother and Hubby's as their father to teach them how to take care of themselves spiritually, physically, financially, and domestically. If we didn't teach them how to cook and clean for themselves along with how to read, handle mathematics in all its applications, and think critically, we'd be failing them as parents. But that in and of itself isn't what I'm getting at.

It's something I've come to realize as my "bad" joints have started getting worse and even my "good" hip and knee have started giving me trouble. Sharing the work and responsibilities involved in tending hearth and home is a powerful way to show one another how much we love and trust them.

A bit over a year ago, certain chores started becoming more difficult and painful for me to handle. Cleaning the baseboards is a prime example. I start off just fine, but by the time I've handled a couple of rooms, my knees start screaming. So Hubby suggested making it one of the girls' chores. They get a kick out of cleaning them, and it saves my knees. It's a win-win.

Sneak learning how to dust a couple years back.
Several months back the new dishwasher we purchased back in 2012 started having the same issues our old one did. After months of taking it apart for deep cleaning two or three times a week with no discernible improvement in performance, we've come to the conclusion it's probably hard water gunking up the works as it does with our fossets every few months. The difference is we can't take the dishwasher apart and treat it with a vinegar soak to break up the calcium deposits, so we started just hand washing all our dishes after each meal last weekend.

I expected a cacophony of whining when I first told the girls they would be helping me with the dishes the first time. I didn't. Boo Bear just had a couple of questions about how she'd reach high enough to put up the plates and coffee mugs, and that was it. I started washing everything before handing each dish or utensil off to Sneak. She took pride in how quickly she could dry everything off, and Boo Bear exalted in climbing up and down from a chair to put the dishes up. Even a week later when the new's started to wear off, we haven't had a complaint.

It's a bit different when it comes to laundry. Boo Bear's been learning how to wash and dry her own clothes in the past few weeks, and both girls have been splitting the responsibility for putting their clothes away for most of a year now. They whine and fuss a bit about the folding and hanging, but I can't blame them. I hate doing laundry too. Still, we're sharing the responsibilities. They take care of their clothes. Hubby and I take care of all the other laundry for our household.

Bonus, now that they've seen how much work washing clothes can be, they've stopped wanting to change clothes ten times a day unless they've legitimately spilled something on themselves.

Boo Bear's learning to cook a little too now that she can reach the counter.
Why is there so little complaint on the whole? The key is everyone who lives in this house helps keep the house and yard neat. We work together as a team. We take turns. No one gets stuck doing the same chore every time it needs to be done, so no one feels overworked. Because we all work together, we all have ownership in the feeling of peace and accomplishment that comes with a clean and organized home.

Hubby and I have shown gratitude when the girls have taken the initiative to handle something we were too busy or sick/hurt to get done, even if it wasn't the "best" job. They tried, right? I'm sure there's been a time or two they've picked up on genuine relief when they've done a chore I find painful or when I'm feeling overwhelmed because things got backed up for one reason or another. Because of this, they've learned helping someone is one way to show someone you love them, and they in turn feel rewarded by the fact Hubby and I can trust them to handle the things they've learned to do.

I've had a major run of bad luck since the middle of May. First I was sick for a month. Then I worked day in and day out getting ready for our first convention of the year only to spend the next week sick. We had a couple of good weeks. Then I threw my back out, which slowed me down for three days. I had a few good days, and then I came down with bronchitis, which I'm only now starting to get over. Handling my day job and helping the girls with their lessons has been about all I could handle some days, so chores have been constantly backed up around here. Because of that, I've been feeling overwhelmed by everything that needs doing. Or I was until I figured out how to ask for and receive help without also getting a bunch of whining and crying.

Hubby and I talked about adding morning exercise and daily chores to our school routine before the school year started for us. Starting that first day, we started with breakfast and cleaning up after the meal before the first few lessons of the day. Then we take a short break to let the girls run around outside or dance or even just do some jumping jacks for fifteen to twenty minutes and handle one chore before going back to lessons until lunch. We eat lunch, clean up after, and do one more chore before starting the final stint of lessons for the day. Then Hubby helps in the evenings he isn't covered over with grading, so the girls still have several hours each night to play without a care. Not only has this helped me at least tread water while sick, but it's improved the girls' focus and morale.

Things aren't perfect. The front garden still needs a good weeding because the sheeting we got to control weeds was completely worthless. We still need to go through the closets after both girls almost skipped right over their last sizes in everything this summer, and we still need to get a composting system set up in preparation for next year's garden. But we're chipping away at it as we can and maintaining things better than we have before because eight hands make light work of what's heavy for two.

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