Family Talk: Letters from a grown-up son about involving kids in chores
This is the third in a short series of letters I wrote to my dad, reminding him of the things he taught me:
Tonight, Spencer and I worked on the lawn together, just as you and I did many years ago. He's not quite old enough to use the lawn mower by himself, but he helps with the cleanup, just as I used to do. As I worked with him, teaching him how to use a broom and dust pan, I remembered the lessons I learned while working around the yard with you.
Lesson 1: Involve the kids in chores. You always involved me in chores even when I wasn't old enough to be much help. When I was young, I was probably more of a hindrance than a help. But I later learned you were “apprenticing” me, getting me ready for the day when I could do the work myself and you could sit on the front porch and watch (not that you ever did!) Years later you'd give me advice about child rearing. “You've got to involve them early, before they can really help, so later, when they can help, they're already in the habit. So I'm trying to apprentice my son, Dad, just like you did with me.
Lesson 2: Work quickly, but not fast. You used to say, “Don't lollygag!” I'm not sure that's a real word, but I got the message. But you would also caution me against working too fast to do the job properly. Left to my own designs, I'd always get the job done fast but in a slap dash manner and not the quality you expected. You always urged me to work quickly but do a quality job. If I didn't, I could always be assured of the third lesson.
Lesson 3: “Is it ready for inspection?” That's the question you would always ask after I announced I had finished my assigned chore. Your question would force me to mentally go back over my work and decide if I thought it would meet the “Ted Priest inspection standard.” More times than not, I'd have to go back and redo some portion of it so that, hopefully, it would pass inspection. I knew if it didn't pass inspection I'd be doing the job over until it was done properly.
Lesson 4: Reward yourself after the work is done. After we finished a job there would always be an iced drink or ice cream cone, and time to sit on the front porch swing. We didn't work for the reward; we worked because the job had to be done. But the reward was a way to say “Good job” to ourselves for seeing the thing through. These days, I often see workers who are at one extreme or the other: They want the reward without the hard work, or they work so hard they never take time to enjoy their accomplishment. Thanks for teaching me about the needed balance, Dad.
I wish I lived close enough so I could mow your lawn. You could finally sit on the front porch and watch. Gotta go make sure Spencer put the tools away right. Talk to you soon.
Much love, Jim
Jim Priest is CEO of Sunbeam Family Services and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org