Chores and teenagers…
It’s like mixing mints in Pepsi!
Something that I have been thinking and talking about a lot these couple of weeks is how serious we have to take having kids. It’s not just about having a baby. People warn you about not sleeping enough when you are pregnant with the first child. How you should watch out for the terrible two’s and the frightful threes. The walking manuals we encounter when pregnant, giving good and bad advice where you go, they never warn you beyond the first school day where you sob your eyes out because your baby is all grown up and 50 photo’s flood your social media timelines of that memorable moment (which will be added, and look ancient, to the last day of school).
To me there are 2 very important phases in the first 18 years. The first is where we hold their physical hand, to help them learn to walk and talk in the first 2 years and after that to just sit down and shush! Haha!
The second most important phase is the teenage phase. More specifically between 10 – 15 years, where we must hold their emotional hand to help them learn about life, the drama, tears and excitement ahead. A safe place where they can under supervision learn how to be an adult, how to sort out the meaning of all their emotions and how to handle them. What their body and brain is really capable of and how they can push themselves the same way they did when they were learning to walk, patiently falling a thousand times before they master the art (and run in a different direction to where you intended to go).
It is a fascinating phase where we as parents have the unique opportunity to mould our children into strong, confident and responsible young adults. A phase where we can help them understand who they are and what they can become. To make them adult-smart, before they have to hustle in the real adult world.
All of this starts at home. Life has changed dramatically since the introduction of the internet. Parenting has become a lethal game, helping us to slack down a little, because all the information is readily available on the internet. In life, everything has 2 sides, the good and the bad. It is up to us how we see it and how we effectively use it.
Unfortunately, in my humble opinion, with parents getting very busy, kids fend for themselves. It is a natural way of life in any case, they develop and grow up without our help. The one day you hold your newborn in your arms, basking in the glorious feeling of becoming a parent for the first time and before you know it, that very same child asks you tough life questions about babies, money, religion, love, death and all the things you actually were trying to keep away from her.
Even though we are moving into a fast-developing digital era, I feel it is still very important to remember how to do the basics. If kids learn how to do it at home, they will do “adulting” with more ease. It reminds me of the time I worked in a high end 5 Star spa. We purchased a new machine for treatments and the plug was wrong. My boss at that time wanted to bring in maintenance to change the plugs and before he could call, I sat with a screwdriver and necessary tools, changing the plug while I felt deep gratitude and pride that my father taught me to do these things.
There is nothing more satisfying to parents when they know their kids are independent. Here are a couple of things that I feel is vital to teach your daughter (and son) while they are in the house:
Something simple as replacing a button! Start with sewing by hand - pieces of felt and a large button. As a craft project that has a completed item at the end that you rave about to boost their confidence will include these valuable lessons. Display the item, send pictures to the grandparents. Let her practice often. Be proud with her! If it takes you doing 1 or two sewing classes with her, it will be a fun bonding session where you’ll be able to learn a new skill as well (or learn new tricks if you already know how).
This is one of the earliest skills they get fascinated with. It starts with make believe tea and progress into play dough cupcakes and finally moves into the kitchen as eggs and mess. Let them mess and make some mistakes, even if it costs you an egg or two to clean up on the floor. Kids thrive on accomplishments (so do we, but we fail to count the small ones). When she (or he) is old enough, let them choose at least one night in the week where they get to make dinner, from scratch. Give them a little budget (for your own safety) and allow them to choose a recipe, jot down the ingredients, assist them to the shops, let them buy it with money out of their own hand (and keep the change) and then make it.
Even for girls!
They do learn in school about plants, how they grow from seed to plant. The fun comes in when they plant vegetables, care for it and get to use it in the food they can make.
Allow them to get dirt under their fingernails (and show them how to clean it afterwards), show them how to cut grass and hedges, teach them about caring for green grass, how to clean a pool (if you have one), raking leaves and sweeping sidewalks. It might feel like it is something that a gardener should do, but being in nature and caring for it has immense power in it. By the way, I cursed every Saturday we had to do gardening, but today I’m glad that I know how to direct our gardening and to thank him because I know and appreciate what hard work it is.
Making a fire
This seems silly, but there might be value in it for them one day. It is an inherent skill which boys love to explore from a young age, but girls never really learn. Who knows what will happen in her future where this simple, yet important skill will come in handy? Being responsible, knowing how to contain the fire, how to dispose of it and how to be respectful of nature are all very important factors in this life skill.
An easy skill these days. My first little washing machine was a double barrel where the one side washed and then I had to transfer it to the spin drum. It took me long to finish the washing, but I lived through it. Teach her to do the sorting of colours and delicates. Show her how to care for underwear and different materials, help her work out stains and how to keep whites white. Teach her effective ways to hang clothes so that minimal ironing is needed and then teach her how to iron. Make it a weekly or biweekly chore so she can learn through it. A small thing like folding socks and underwear, hanging and folding clothes to minimise creases. Don’t forget to teach her about the trickier items like linen, like bedding and towels. This will serve her well in college.
Changing a car tyre, swopping a plug, replacing a lightbulb, assembling IKEA furniture, gluing things together etc. These were things that my very handy father taught us and I’m extremely thankful to him. It has made me feel less helpless and often, even if we know how to do it and men step in to help a damsel in distress, there is a certain power moment in standing back and knowing you were indeed able to do it. Most importantly, teach them how to fix something rather than replacing it!
This is one for boys also. Give them the responsibility of cleaning their rooms and a bathroom. Teach them how to clean a toilet, sweep and mop the floor, dusting, cleaning windows, how to wash, dry and pack dishes, etc. Especially cleaning pots. Make it a rule that their bed must be made every single day. No clothes on the floor. Replace toothpaste lids. Small things like changing the toilet roll (debate if it should roll down from the bottom or over the top), show her that she can put small nearly done soap bars in her underwear drawer or his sock/shoe drawer for a cleaner smell. How to use the hoover and clean it. Changing the dustbin. All these small skills will help keep things neat and tidy not just in the house, but when they go off to study.
There are so many life skills that they can learn before they leave the house to better prepare them for their longer life as an adult. I guess this can be called “home schooling” as it is everything you can learn while you are in your parents’ home, before you get your own home. “How to life” is a cute short phrase for all these little skills I feel is vital to know before you really “life”. I fell in love with the term when I first heard it from a fellow business owner sharing the same passion as I do.
I hope all parents will understand how important it is to be present and teach their kids to do “life”. The hardest part is to see them struggle. We will do them a greater favour to allow them to learn and make mistakes while they are in our care, than when we hand them over to adulthood and they must figure all this out by themselves.