Today was the first official day of summer. Waking up . . . or not . . . on a Monday morning . . . it really didn’t matter.
Last summer, pre-blog, in the middle of total frustration about my home, I had big plans. I made charts and found stickers, and came up with a huge and elaborate reward system.
And I was scared. I was so tired of living in a constantly embarrassing home. I felt the almost unbearable weight of the things I was indirectly teaching my children by letting our home stay in a state of chaos. I wanted so badly to make it better, and coming up with a system was my only hope.
I remember being nervous on that first day at breakfast. I pulled out the charts and explained what we were going to do. The thing that excited me then, but makes me feel sad now, was the kids’ excitement. They wanted responsibility. They wanted to participate. They were, and still are, at that lovely age when work is fun. New challenges are just a sign of growing up, which they long for, but their innocence prevents them from grasping that once you have responsibility, it never ends.
Now, looking back, I know that my “system” was doomed to fail, for several reasons.
1. I didn’t know enough about how to keep my house in order to be able to teach them to do it.
2. Even though I was trying ultra-hard to not overcomplicate things . . . I did. I had them sweeping, wiping down tables, doing dishes after every single meal and snack. In my own deslobification process over the past school year, I’ve made it just fine clearing the table after meals, and doing the wipe down and sweeping once a day.
3. We started last summer with a home in complete disarray, which made them (understandably) unable to see how what they were doing was making any difference.
Today, I didn’t do a big production. I got up and had my Bible study time, enjoying the fact that the first kid didn’t get up until 7:15. While they ate breakfast, I emptied the dishwasher, which is now a well-established (and essential) habit of mine. After breakfast, I asked them to rinse their dishes and put them in the dishwasher. This was only a small added step to their already established habit of putting their dishes in the sink.
I then had one boy sweep the kitchen, and one wiped down the table and counters. All was done before 8 a.m. No speeches, no explanations about “how things are going to be around here from now on.”
Throughout the day, we’ve been working on laundry, and I’ve let the boys take turns loading and starting the washing machine. Last night, they brought all clothes to the hall outside the laundry room and did the sorting. They were fully capable of this.
Housework has been a very real part of our first day of summer, but it has been in the background. If you asked them about their day, they would tell you about tennis class, multiple baseball games in the front yard, and how we’re going to go swimming if it doesn’t rain. Housework would be an afterthought for them.
This is my new approach to teaching my kids to contribute to housework. Since starting this blog, I’ve made my daily habits and weekly cleaning tasks a part of life. I do my best to no longer be intimidated by them. This is what I want to pass down to my children.
“Systems” don’t work for me, but daily consistent habits do.
I’m not claiming that I have this figured out, by any means. But I do know (now from experience) that the only way to do keep my house in order is to keep going. Weeks will happen this summer when we may not get anything done, and the house will be a disaster. But the week after that, we’ll just have to keep going.