I’m grateful for this new concept (stemming from indigenous wisdom) that has just this week entered my consciousness: How to Get your Kids to Do Chores (without resenting it), as illuminated by Michaeleen Doucleff on NPR.
What?! helpful toddlers!? I had not considered really perceiving Lake in that way: as a Mother’s Helper. When he comes running up to me and I’m in the middle of trying to complete a household chore as efficiently as possible I’m typically diverting him towards engaging in some playtime away from underfoot. Here’s a ball. Do you want to play with your train? Where’s the kitty? Please don’t push any buttons. I’m trying to do this chore.
Meanwhile the indigenous wisdom from Mexico says he’s running up to help me out! That he’s inherently helpful and wishes to please me. That being helpful requires no extrinsic reward because the intrinsic value inherent in being acomedido, volunteering situationally appropriate help, brings happiness and creates a warm sense of belonging. Children want to be included to help out!
This insight into toddler psychology and family dynamics is gold! Time to check myself, and retune my parenting instruments. So, what I’ve been doing right by necessity and default is to have him nearby while doing the chores. What I’ve been totally missing as an opportunity is to have him helping me. Any genuine task, no matter how small, he’s able to help with is an investment. It is an investment in having a fully capable, motivated and perceptive household participant at 8 or 9 years old.
When I ran this by my Oaxacan friend Alfonso Escobar, he enthusiastically concurred and immediately began expounding additional thoughts. It has to be together with you. It can be something small like washing the dishes… baby’s love water! It can’t be too hard like giving them a huge broom or false like giving them a little broom after you’ve swept. This is all really useful and I can’t wait to begin beta testing this shift with Lake.
Last weekend I was at an all time parenting low, telling Lake aloud I was so frustrated and couldn’t he just play somewhere away from me while I attempted to do housework. I was stressed to clean our guest apartment and prepare it for our newly arriving guests. I had planned to clean while Lake was napping, but then he wouldn’t take a nap! So I was telling him over and over how frustrated I was because he was supposed to be napping and how could I get the apartment clean and the bed made with him underfoot? Couldn’t he just be happy jumping on the bed? Poor Lake was so confused. And here the answer to my prayers was under my nose. He was trying repeatedly to help me! He could help me with just a little direction. It’s a mind blowing game changer. So tonight I tried it out. He helped tidy up from dinner: tossing the food scraps into the compost bin, transferring the remaining salad from the salad bowl to a plastic container for the fridge. Sure, I had to put the equipment on the floor this time to engage him, but he got ‘er done!
A perfect day for learning and working together. I’m so glad I spent it with you Lake!