If Only Tyler Knew…

Chores.  Such an old-fashioned word.  It immediately brings to mind Huck Finn, Tom Sawyer, Opie, Beaver, or the gang from Little House on the Prairie. Kids from long ago who unquestioningly did their regular chores around the house, contributing to the family, because it was the right thing to do, or because they were afraid of the power wielded by the adults in their world.  Adults who wanted to be parents to their children, not friends.

Certainly my four children were raised with “jobs around the house.” Starting from a very early age, we had charts and gold stars, red marks — the works.  It was not easy keeping track of it all and consistently making sure the kids did what they were supposed to, but each year it became a little easier and soon their chores became a habit and were done almost automatically.  I think being consistent with one’s requirements and consequences  is the toughest challenge a parent faces.  It is a never-ending, relentless job.  Setting the boundaries, rules and expectations  is the easy part.  It’s the follow-through that we all trip on, the task that seems like a mountain.
“Tyler, pick up your things, it’s time for bed.”  Nothing. “Tyler, I don’t want to have to remind you again!” ( I’m so tired I could cry).  It would be so much easier to ignore it all, or pick it up myself, but one slip, one look the other way, one giving in and I’ve undone a week’s worth of effort and I’m sliding down the slippery slope.  I have to try again.

“Tyler, do you remember the consequences when you don’t do what you are responsible for?”  (Whatever the consequences are – they are sacrosanct and not to be messed with.) All this is very tough to pull off.  It is an ever-pressing obligation until your children are no longer under your roof, or over 21.  Although I suppose if they’re still under your roof and over 21 you could haul out the old “job chart” and gold stars and have another go at it.

I’ve done informal surveys among various friends and relatives and it seems that children are no longer expected to complete chores and the prevailing attitude of the parents is this:

“Tyler is so busy with school and soccer practice, homework etc., that he just doesn’t have time to help around the house.  I told him his job is to get the best grades that he can and get into the college of his choice.  That’s his job.  Not taking out the garbage, making his bed, picking up his clothes, clearing the dishes, loading the dishwasher, cleaning up the messes he makes.  He’s much too busy to do those things.”

Given all that,  my response is this:

“What will happen when he’s out on his own?  How will he become empathetic to others’ needs?  Will he feel entitled?  How will he learn to cooperate with a roommate, friend, wife?  What kind of husband/father will he become?  Will he be lazy?  Will he be responsible?  What about simple consideration for his parents in the meantime?”

Maybe I make too much of the importance of chores.  Maybe it’s not important for a child to feel that they contribute to the smooth running of the household.  I remember reading A Tree Grows in Brooklynby Betty Smith about a family and their  struggle to survive in the early 1900’s in New York.  I’ve given it to many of my grandchildren and hope they actually read it, because the compelling story might touch some empathetic cord in them regarding children who struggle for food and shelter, who not only go to school and work hard but try to raise money for the family by doing odd jobs in the neighborhood, children who find joy in the smallest pleasures.  It’s a lovely book about a quieter, simpler and tougher time in America– a time when there was not such an abundance of praise to be handed out at every little turn.



Filed under Bits and Bobs, Book Recommendations

3 responses to “If Only Tyler Knew…

  1. Just wanted to say HI. I found your blog a few days ago on Technorati and have been reading it over the past few days.

  2. bj

    Donna- you are so the best!!!!
    with love, your future vice- dictator

  3. Maggie King

    I haven’t yet read The Women but I read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn twice—once when I was 15 and again at 50. I agree that times were simpler yet tougher in many ways.

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