I often hear parents talk about how it is impossible to have a clean house, cook real food, read a book, pursue a hobby, and on and on because they have kids. People often marvel at how much I am capable of doing in a day, as though I must not sleep. The reality is, though, that I have simply made my days about caring for my children and my home, and decided that these two things are not mutually exclusive. My children are young, but they are capable of doing much of what I do. And they want to help. Young children do want to help. In fact, everyone has an inborn desire to help others and feel needed. By teaching my children how to do a job, and do it well, I have added to the amount that I am capable of accomplishing in a day.
Some of the things my children do to help are setting their places at the table, carrying their own dishes to the counter or dishwasher, and getting the silverware for everyone. They also put their own dirty clothing in the laundry hamper. They help to load and unload the washing machine and dryer. They cooperatively empty the lint filter and put it back in its housing. They help to hang laundry out on their little clothes line while I hang laundry on the taller line. They also help to take it down. They help to empty the dishwasher and put the dishes away if they are awake when that is done. They get their brooms when I sweep and are learning how to sweep their own little piles. They gather up their craft paper and coloring utensils and put them back into their proper boxes. They carry garbage and recycling to the appropriate receptacles. They help to put toys away in the playroom – made possible by keeping different types of things together in baskets so they can simply drop the cars and trucks into the appropriate basket, and so on. They get the toys that have made their way out of the playroom and put them back in the playroom. They help to fold laundry – washcloths are a favorite. They help to put laundry away. They can carry the wipes to the potty, washrags to the cabinets, napkins to the drawers, Not Paper Towels to the basket. The Bean can hang the kid clothes on hangers, and they can both hang the hangers on the rod that Daddy hung low for them. They can both carry stacks of underwear, socks, jammies and pants to the appropriate drawer and put them in. They can get their own clothes and jammies out when it is time to change.
Did I mention that they just turned 2 and 4?
I let them approach tasks at the level they are on. I don’t expect perfection. I show them that work is just something we do, and that we can have fun doing. They love to show me what they are capable of, and many a task is completed with an exclamation of, “I’m proud of myself!” They play while they work, and enjoy the challenge of learning a new skill. We sing and laugh together. We love together, over laundry, dishes, toys, and brooms. We all feel productive and fulfilled.