A Cup-Breaking Concept

This is the inevitable result of letting a six-year-old and a three-year-old unload the dishwasher alone. Little hands, eager and fumbling, lose traction on glossy espresso mugs, and there is a muffled clack and then a collective intake of breath and then two patterns of footsteps, one clambering to escape guilt by association and one dragging. From the next room, I hurry to the rescue of floundering emotions and surprise myself by meaning the words of assurance that instinctively slip out: “It’s okay, it’s just a cup.”

I’ve been reluctant for years to let the girls help around the house, primarily for this reason. Letting them help means mess. Scratch that, MESS. It means tasks taking twice as long and being done half as well, and it requires an expanse of my attention and patience that could be more effectively spent on writing the next Great American Novel or cooking homemade cosmetics à la Julie & Julia. It is far more convenient to slip in my earphones and plow through the housework myself.

Of course, doing the housework myself leads to the inevitable result of Time Deficit Despair, and some gentle prompting by my husband has convinced me to start taking advantage of the cheap child labor we conceived. The thing that baffles me is how much the girls want to work. If I enlist their help around the house all morning, their moods are easily 90% brighter than if I keep them out of the way with toys or cartoons while I do the work alone. They dance while dusting and giggle while hanging the laundry, raising valid suspicion that I am not the mother. (Dan??) The atmosphere around here is so much better than it was when I was running a one-woman show, and if I step back and let them do tasks on their own, I actually, unbelievably, save time. Totally ground-breaking concept, I know.

So really? It is okay. It is just a cup (and one already immortalized by my blog header at that). It’s an occupational hazard of letting my children take responsibility while they’re still young and enthusiastic, and I’ll gladly trade the occasional dropped dish for the happy balance we’re all finding as a result.

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  1. Everybody likes to feel useful and helpful and to be doing something “important”, even kids. Good for you for taking advantage of your child labor! Martin & Karin salute you!

  2. Being at the other end of this dynamic , your bog made me smile. Now that they kids are all putting away their own things in their own households, I miss the help!

    Helping them develop good work ethics is the fun pf parenting!

    Oh, nice cup- use some glue and stick a plant in it 😉

  3. We just had a “plate incident” that matches yours. Sarah was clearing the table. I, too, have a hard time letting go and letting the children help. Especially when I am busy. There is always some drama to go with the help that I tend to shy away. Lately though, in spite of me, Katie will just start unloading the dishwasher and loading it back up. She has decided this is her job. Who am I to take that away from her? And, it ROCKS when I go into the kitchen and all I have to do is to call people in to get their junk OUT so I can cook! (Everyone seems to linger in the kitchen so the table and the counters sport a variety of fun things from cap guns to the new “justice” magazine ad, and legos…always legos.)

  4. sigh.
    this is sweet.
    i’m kinda one of those one-woman-cleaning types, too.
    guess i might have to let that go someday! heh.

  5. Liz – Ha… do Martin and Karin know they’re saluting me? 🙂

    Sue – Taking your suggestion!

    Megsie – Your kiddos are a couple of years ahead of mine, so I’m looking at you guys for inspiration. 🙂

    Jennifer – I didn’t realize this would be one of the trickier aspects to being a mom–letting them help. It’s nice to have your camaraderie.

    Beka – I’m hoping to work myself out of a job eventually… hehe.

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