Thursday, July 26, 2012

Chores, personal responsibility and grace

This morning I did not feel like hitting the treadmill at the gym. Actually, to say that "I did not feel like" getting on the treadmill would be an enormous understatement.  Rather, my feet felt like lead, my head started hurting at the mere thought of any form of exercise, and I almost wanted to cry. But there was Dr. Phil again with his grating Southern drawl telling me, 

You don't have to want to do it. You just have to do it.

So I did.

When I got home, I did not feel like unloading the dishwasher. I did not feel like making the bed that I had left unmade earlier because I didn't feel like making it then either. I did not feel like taking the pup for a walk. I did not feel like gathering up a load of laundry. I did not feel like figuring out what we will have for dinner later tonight. I didn't feel like doing much of anything except burying my face in a bowl of frosting and topping that off with a nap.  All of this occurred before it was even 10am.

Some days are like that, right?

Well, the thing is, I know that some days are like that for kids, too. My kids have their good days and bad days, which is what I get for having human children. I should have looked online for some of those reliable robotic children who, once programmed, perform their chores and duties with clockwork-like precision all while wearing a happy smile. But those robotic children are also lacking in spontaneity and humor and unexpected moments of brilliance.

Yesterday, as I was running out the door I asked Jack if he could please fill the dog's water bowl. And then, for some unknown reason, I clarified that he should fill it with cold water.

He raised his eyebrows slightly and deadpanned, So I should fill it with hot water then? (all while wearing an expression that said, Duh, Mom. Do you think I'm an idiot?)

And I laughed out loud. I laughed because he is a funny kid with a quick, quirky sense of humor and I know I'm going to miss that kid all too soon. He doesn't always remember to clear his dishes, but I'll take him over a robot kid any day.

Days like today are the reason I am probably not as hard on my kids as maybe I should be. When kids complain that adults just don't remember what it was like to be a kid, I would argue that it's actually because I do remember that I extend as much latitude to my kids as I do. I fully remember how pointless household chores seemed to me when I was a kid. I remember how much a request to unload the dishwasher could fill me with utter annoyance. I remember how important all of my social demands and dilemmas felt to me and that the need for a clean room paled in comparison. I do remember and the truth is, sometimes chores and responsiblity still feel like that to me.  Not nearly so often as they did when I was a kid, but we all have those days when we wish we could just forget all of the work and spend the whole day reading, eating and sleeping (well, that would be my perfect day- yours might be a bit more active...whatever). I do remember what it felt like then, and I know how it still can feel now so....I try to offer a little grace when I can.

I try not to overreact to the occasional grumpy attitude so long as most of the time my kids respond to requests for helpfulness with a reasonably pleasant demeanor (definition: no obvious eye-rolling or loud, heavy sighs).

I try to recognize the times when my kids are already tired and/or overwhelmed by other responsiblities and keep extra requests to a minimum.

I try to make sure that the majority of our interactions do not center around all that they need to be doing, or should be doing, or could do differently or better or more efficiently. I try to make sure that most of the time, we just talk.

And, most of all, I try to remember to express appreciation for the tasks that they do handle because our household really does function best when we all pitch in and do our part. I want them to know that what we ask of them is not simply because we get some sick pleasure in watching them suffer, but because we genuinely need their help.

Don't we all need a little grace, or a lot of grace, now and then? I know I do.

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