We’re working on independence (always) in our home. With summer coming and our calendar filling I’m reminded that summer is not exactly a down time for us. I’m excited for everything we have planned but also excited for the boys’ enjoyment of helping our household run. It will be a very different summer this year. There will be no diapers, no strollers, and if we get really involved in whatever we’re doing, we can pass on naptime. It will also be the first summer where I’m not the sole cleaner-upper. When I read It’s a Boy! Understanding Your Son’s Development from Birth to Age 18 by Dr. Michael Thompson one of the things I took from it was a boy’s deep desire to be a part of the community. When we appeal to a boy’s sense of responsibility within that community we stop making chores work and start making them about helping the household run. Boys thrive on having a responsibilities. I didn’t expect to be using that tidbit with my boys at 4 (okay less than a week from 5 but I might be in denial) and 3 ½ but I have.
In the past month or so we’ve been testing out some new “chores” for the boys. These aren’t on-the-fridge or earn-some-money chores. In fact, they’ve never heard the word chores. The tasks they are doing are ones that contribute to the day to day running of our household. At some point in the past month Brandon and I have stopped being the ones cleaning up after the boys. They have always been responsible for keeping their rooms and the toy room clean but now it’s more than that. They are taking their dishes from the table, emptying any uneaten food in to the garbage, and then loading them in to the dishwasher (or putting them in the sink if the dishwasher is already running). They are hauling their laundry downstairs and sorting them in to the colors, darks, or whites bins. They are both getting up in the morning, dressing themselves, and brushing their teeth. They share the task of vacuuming and swiffering the kitchen and dining room after supper or any particular messy meal. I didn’t ever expect this to be happening so early but I am not complaining.
We’ve never phrased these tasks as something they have to do. In the beginning, we asked for their help in these chores. They embraced the independence and felt good about helping us out. Now, these things have turned in to habits and we rarely are reminding them to complete them. Are the tasks completed like I would complete them? Nope. Are the boys as thorough as I would be? Nope. Do I redo them sometimes? Absolutely! However, never when they can see me. If someone was always redoing the things you did, you’d learn really fast to just stop doing them.
We’ve been trying to find ways for them to keep growing their independence. Breakfast on Fridays ( I only teach Monday-Thursday) and weekends get a little crazy. Let’s be honest. It takes me way longer to get ready than my husband and boys. I get the boys’ food ready and get them started eating and then I go take a shower and get ready. I’m thankful that they can eat breakfast without supervision. The one thing I get called back to the kitchen for is more milk. Cue genius idea. I had just rinsed out a creamer container and it was drying to be used in the car for snacks during some upcoming travel. I saw it sitting there, filled it with milk and BOOM! Momma made a milk container perfect for the boys to use independently. Hudson (3 ½) wanted to use it first but since I filled it to the top, it was too heavy to hold it and also hold his cup steady so I held his cup. If it’s filled ¾ of the way he can pour it without any help. Corbin had no problem using it at all. Problem solved! I felt like the MacGyver of mommas. It’s amazing how something so simple can give them independence and me a few more consecutive minutes of drying my hair. Obligatory cuteness with a sneak peek of our current project:
We switched to Natural Bliss creamer. I’m not ready to make my own creamer but this is a definite upgrade from all the junk in the other stuff. Although, I do wish they would explicitly tell us what the natural flavoring is. I’m also looking forward to putting milk in the container with the white cap. Yes, a little OCD but really, how nice will white on white look?
I’m still a little in shock that this is where we are in life. I’m not sure I’m emotionally ready for them to be this independent but I know it’s what they need and deserve. How do you help foster independence in your home?