My kids are three and five. They still make me get off my ass more than I would like, but I consider them fairly self-sufficient for their age. Sure, I teach them to do things so I don’t have to, but I also know that it’s good for them. Mastering skills builds self-esteem and self-worth, and I’m happy to buck the helicopter parent trend.
Graham has been able to slap a sandwich together for over a year. He regularly makes his own lunch, and if I would ever remember to put the milk in a container smaller than a full gallon, he would pour his own cereal for breakfast, too. He recently took hard boiled eggs we had in the fridge and whipped up some egg salad. All by himself.
Getting to that point took time. About a year and a half of peanut butter smeared on the counter, or egg shell bits all over the floor. It was (and sometimes still is) seriously annoying, but I knew it was important for him to learn. He can open granola bar wrappers with the ease of a grown up, and he cuts fruit and soft vegetables with a small, unsharp knife. It’s not annoying anymore. It’s adorable and awesome.
His sister is getting there. She cuts veggies, peels eggs, and smears peanut butter on bread. She can usually open a yogurt container or a granola bar. They both clear dishes and help empty the dishwasher. Lily is pretty skilled at putting shirts on hangers, and Graham puts his folded clothes away. They both feed and water our lab Edgar daily. Some days it’s like I’ve got my own Oompa Loompas.
The key to allowing kids to do chores is to expect imperfection. The chopped vegetables are NEVER uniform size, and the hung shirts are often backwards. It’s fine. Ladies, you would do well to adopt this philosophy when it comes to allowing your partners to help with things, too. Your way is not the only way. Often times, “good enough” is, well, good enough.
Are my kids always helpful? Uh, no. Is it sometimes a fight? Of course. Would it be easier if I did it myself? I’m sure you know the answer to that. But my job is to present my children to adult society with knowledge, skills, and abilities, not, as some would think, to cook and clean for them as long as they live here. Cooperation makes for a peaceful household. In fact, the first time Graham fetched me a beer, I knew we were ready to consider a second child.