Yesterday, when my little challenger ‘switched the laundry’ for me, it got me to thinking… Actually, it’s something I’ve been thinking on for a while, so thought I’d try to put some of those thoughts here.
My girls are 4 and 7. Their room is a disaster. Our house is a disaster; it’s been a challenging season. But they know how to change the garbage bags in the bathrooms. They obviously know how to switch the laundry, and even fold their own clothes (sometimes quite creatively) and can put them away properly. They know where to put sheets, towels, blankets, and dishes. My eldest can fry an egg and make toast, Little Artist likes to stir oatmeal, or dinner. They would like to scrub toilets, but I’m not quite ready to go there yet.
I’m not saying any of this to brag; God knows there is SO much we’re behind on, in training and otherwise.
But I think back to my own childhood…
I had finished first grade when I was Big Sister’s age. Until then, and even beyond, I never even saw the bathroom cleaned. My aunt (who died this past summer) lived with us at the time, and I believe she was the bathroom-cleaner – I recall a handwritten note affixed to the bathroom wall in her handwriting encouraging my mom’s boyfriend to “aim to please.” In any case, I never witnessed the toilet be cleaned, or the bathtub scrubbed, or the mirror polished. I certainly was never taught how to do these things. My dirty laundry disappeared from my room and reappeared, clean and folded, in my drawers. I was encouraged to wash dishes occasionally, but never with much consistency. I made my bed when the mood struck; usually Thanksgiving, Easter, my birthday… Presumably all the housekeeping was done while I was out of the way – at school. My mother didn’t do a lot of it (she was handicapped), and Gi-gi took care of the laundry, I think. Gi-gi is multi-capable, amazingly productive, and has managed to pass that ability on to absolutely no one.
[I was involved with grocery shopping, however. Mom wasn’t much of a cook, so convenience foods (canned, boxed foods) were staples – and we were on food stamps! We ate very fancily! In fact, by the time I was 10/11 or so, my mom would drive to the grocery store, hand me a check that had her signature (a signature-stamp, eventually), and I would do the shopping, checking out and wheeling the cart (perhaps we had bag-boys to help with that) back to the car, where she waited.]
At least my girls are gaining early exposure, understanding the processes that I didn’t even notice were going on. That has to count for something, right? They won’t have the shock to their system that I had, when I was nearly 13 and moved to live with my dad and step-mother. She knew how to teach. I learned to clean a toilet, the tub, sink, mirror. To shake out rugs, change garbages (burn garbage, even!). My daily chore was to vacuum the living room, dust it frequently, nightly wash dishes (or clear table, counters, and put away leftovers), help prepare dinner, and do my own laundry — and God help me if I didn’t do my laundry on my specified day! I either waited a week, or surreptitiously tossed a load in when my folks were gone… Once or twice she loaded up my brother and I (and we with our laundry) to the laundromat, where we could spend our own money to launder our clothes, when we didn’t stick to our prescribed day.
It’s true that learning this stuff is “better late than never,” but far better than that is to learn it early. I thank God that I did suffer (and oh, there were times I suffered) through a change in expectations and habits, and I praise Him that my girls will be better equipped. I pray that I become more of a teacher-alongside than an accomplishing-lone-ranger. The difference means so much.