Housework is the bane of my life. In fairness, it’s not the doing of housework that especially bothers me – if anything there’s something quite therapeutic about taking a room apart and putting it back together again, discovering a hairbrush, baby talc and the portable dvd remote control all of which have been missing for the past week, in the process. It’s the less therapeutic effect of returning to the same room two minutes later only to find it has been restored to its former lack of glory as Spiderman scrambles over the now cushion-less couch while Ironman drags the decorative throw along the floor giving Superman and The Hulk a sleigh-ride. Darth Vader meanwhile turns the playroom on its head in search of his lightsaber and a watergun.
This summer, I decided it was time my kids learned to do a few things for themselves. To start with I wasn’t looking for miracles, just basic things like putting their underwear in the wash basket. The sort of things that are supposed to distinguish us from the rest of the animal kingdom. And after daily reminding of approximately 5 – 226 times we’re finally starting to have success, some of the time.
More recently I decided it was time to encourage some age appropriate chores. Not only, I figured, would this give me a little bit of help , I felt it might make the older children aware of how much effort goes into running the house and hopefully make them think twice before creating a mess. My naivety never ceases to amaze me.
Harry Enfield’s Kevin and Perry had nothing on the sort of reaction I was greeted with. The mere suggestion of making their own beds and tidying their room after some of them had ALREADY placed their own used breakfast bowl in the sink was met with declarations of “that’s not fair” and insistence that the requested child would only tidy their side of the room. Cue stomping upstairs and a literal battleline drawn. Two minutes later the dulcet tones of two lads killing each other echoed down the stairs and I was forced, in a gentle manner, reminiscent of a fishwife, to lovingly call “don’t make me come up there!!!”
Downstairs, meanwhile, the next two up to the “not literal” plate were all ready to resist the task in hand. Emptying the dishwasher and hoovering apparently is tantamount to child abuse, plus the hoover is a very complicated piece of equipment to operate, it seems. Grumbling every step of the way the two carried out the job asked of them, badly. Their claims that none of their friends would ever have to do anything like this, fell on deaf, but fed up, ears.
As I slowly lost my mind following battles which ended with half hearted, half completed jobs I realised I have a long way to go. I am however, determined to persist and teach my children a bit about responsibility. All I need now is to summon up the strength to be consistent. As Gloria Gaynor so eloquently put it “At first I was afraid, I was petrified” but “I will survive”!
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