Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Helping Hands

When our boy was at the stage that little kids go through when they want to help out around the house, we were living in Oregon in an old farmhouse with a huge kitchen.

I'd do the dishes....

And he would help. In this case, there had been a horrible disaster with the blender or the other food processor, and food was splattered everywhere. It didn't matter that he was making a terrific mess because there was already a major mess to clean up.

He was a very big help. See mom? All clean now....

Anybody remember glass soda bottles? Well 30 years ago in Oregon, a deposit was charged on every bottle and can of soda, you got money back when you returned them. And some enterprising people would scour the highways and byways and find discarded bottles and clean them up and turn them in.

And when we drove down to Los Angeles to see grandma and grandpa...

He would help Grandpa too.

But then something happens. Just about the time that they really could be a tremendous help in the kitchen or doing other household chores, they loose all interest. They tend to disappear when it comes time for housework or they want to be bribed with an allowance.

About the time that Nathaniel was 11 or 12, a woman I went to church with had two boys that were slightly older than he was. She wanted to know if I would be interested in bartering for their good clothes they had grown out of in exchange for help cleaning her house.

Both she and her husband worked full time. I had a few jobs cleaning houses and some businesses in town to earn extra money, so I said sure.

I went to her house to see what she wanted done, and I was shocked to the core when I walked in. There sat these two able-bodied teenaged boys on the couch watching TV in the midst of a totally trashed house. Several days' worth of unwashed dishes covered the kitchen counters. Laundry was piled up in front of the washing machine. Trash was oveflowing. Stuff was strewn everywhere in the living room..

I looked at the mess, I looked at their stressed-out mother.

I looked at the mess, I looked at the boys again.

I thought to myself.... well....never mind what I thought, but I vowed right then that our boy was not going to grow up to be a lazy lump.

We agreed how much time I would spend cleaning her house for some really nice jeans and shirts, and then I returned home fired up. I made him do dishes once a day. I taught him how to run the washing machine and the dryer. I showed him how to operate the vacuum.

Every other week I cleaned a house that was a very big job, and so I started taking him with me and he helped. I could do this because I taught him at home, so we logged in a couple of hours of "education in the domestic arts" on those days.

He became trained to help out around the house - not for money, but just because he lived there and needed to contribute.

And he still does...


Far Side of Fifty said...

You are a good Mom, all kids should learn basic housekeeping and cooking skills! :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for that much needed word of encouragement. I sure see Andy in Nathaniel's picture.


Millennium Housewife said...

I am going to take that post as a timely warning and start training now - one year old already has his own vacuum...MH

Tami said...

That's great. Does letting the dog lick the plates help? Helping tongues?


PS...Thanks for adding the I can read you on the run.