I am home with four kids - two girls, two boys - ages 14, 6, 5 and 3 (and when I started this blog, just a little over two years ago, I had an infant, a 2yr old, 3yr old and 12yr old - feels like a lifetime ago, but it wasn't ;-). Until about four or five years ago, I worked in marketing. I have been and done many things - dancer, magazine "multi-tasker", advertising copywriter, gymnastics coach, resort town waitress, grad student, etc. Now my areas of expertise are different and diverse. I am savvy, efficient, patient and earthy (like it or not). I am a better cook, an Ok herb gardener, an impressive artist to my kids, an active and prolific photographer, a childrens' clothing stylist (in my head), a manager of all things "household" and a news enthusiast (from politics to celebrity). I am more cynical though less of a worrier / hypochondriac than I used to be. I am increasingly proud of what I do with kids, family and home, but I do still present myself as a "freelance writer".
So ... we spent the day weeding the yard yesterday and laying sand down over our brick patio. Marcello had the boys weeding with him - though they had their little Knight and dragon characters with them (Milo keeps his dragon with him all the time - sleeps with him to scare the bedbugs away :-) and would cool of with Lilliana in the water table now and then. I actually have them help me around the house too - mostly because they like to - and I usually just allow them to make the rounds with the feather duster or push the light vacuum - water the plants - that kind of thing (Lil likes to help unload the dishwasher and they all like to help cook and bake). We also hold Olivia to some "chores" - she has to clean her room - she has to help vacuum - help with the dinner dishes, etc. (the little ones also like to set the table - especially Enzo for some reason - Milo is my vacuuming fiend - it's so funny - I'll hear the vacuum in the other room and come in to see this little chubby guy pushing it - he likes it - what can I say?).
Anyway, I'm never sure how I feel about "chores". I do think, at 14, Olivia should clean her own room. I do get frustrated that she seems to want me to figure out how to store all of her clothes and other items, when - at that age - I did it myself. She seems to think that her room is small and, truthfully, even though I lived in roomier, newer suburban houses growing up, I still had a smaller room for most of my life (I admit, when I was a junior in high school, I did finally get a bigger room - but... it came with a price - I mean, we moved a lot. Digressing...). So... her room does not have a closet (100 + year old house), but we did get her a big armoire and she uses ALL of the lower shelves and most of the floor space in the hall closet. Not ideal, but.... you make it work in these older houses (and we do have plans to get her some new furniture). For the most part, she keeps this "little" room neat and clean.
So ... the little ones were helping yesterday - and.... they got hot and tired and wanted to play. For me, I think - OK - age appropriate time for a "chore" - probably 10 or 15 min (4 and 5 years old) - goof around with the toy shovel - get their hands a little dirty - "help" move the weed pile (such action items always make them feel like "big boys"). But... hubby actually wants them to execute the weed pulling properly - gets ever so slightly irritated when they want to come in and have lunch or a drink ('they've only been out here a few minutes!"). He and I were raised differently in that respect. I had a very industrious father from a working class family who, despite his executive success later in life, would still paint the entire house himself - do all of his own yardwork (he DID have a fancy sprinkler system installed, though) - build decks - tackle all sorts of home improvement tasks, etc. AND - he and my mom kept a pristine home - just perfect - clean, efficient, organized. Hubby has told me before that his Dad, an oncologist, did not even know how to change a furnace filter and hired everyone for his household chores. He was not a yard guy either. Also, his Mom grew up on a farm and expected work from kids - especially her girls, BUT her house was disaster - food all over the kitchen - dirty laundry piles - tables cluttered with paperwork and other items - very messy - very disorganized. Our house, as a result, is a mix of both. Beyond that, we have very different views on how to "work" the kids. Yes - when we painted, my Dad did teach me to edge - or made me paint the ceiling - he showed me how to thoroughly wash my car - my brothers mowed the lawn - BUT, as kids, I think we just brought him beer while he mowed the lawn or got sudsy washing the car. In fact, I don't remember any REAL "chores" until we were older - grade school / middle school-ish.
So ... when is it appropriate do you think? What do you guys do with your kids and at what age? Is it all part of their learning experience? Is it too much? Do they need to learn this discipline or do they need to take more of an observation - type stance? Jury is out for me...... Help?
All in all, a good day (and here's the food part ;-) - after a short time at the pool to cool off, we grilled cheeseburgers and twice-baked potatoes - made a quick salad from our CSA veggies and our own garden and ate at the table as a family (all six of us together - this has been a theme for a few days (hard sometimes with the odd summer schedule).... lunch after camp pick-up with Olivia on Saturday led to more family time later in the day - big breakfast together Sunday morning - pool, dinner - so nice). Later, we built a fire in the fire pit, set up some chairs, roasted marshmallows and made s'mores. Olivia taught Enzo the proper technique for getting the chocolate to melt - Daddy showed Milo how to toast a marshmallow (which Milo would then feed me - the "brown" marshmallows were suspect at first - THEN, he tasted one :-) - Lil was dressed like a fairy (complete with a star wand) and wandered the yard, happy to be with everyone (she fell asleep in that sweet little fairy costume :-). Later, they all caught lightening bugs and hula-hooped - Enzo brought Olivia some water (odd note, I realize, but I love it when they are attentive to each other) - so Milo brought me some (and, for the record, he thinks we were "camping" ;-).... just funny family stuff (will definitely make this a regular "thing" - had wanted our neighbors to join us, but their kids have school today, so.... next time - definitely, M :-). Anyway, all this made up for no call back from my mom again - an afternoon with my mother-in-law during which she listed for me all her oldest daughter's "grievances" against me .... the OTHER unfortunate side of family (and, by all means, friends, weigh in on that too ;-).
Photo: The boys - some summer night at dusk - more family time.... last month maybe....
Oh - and check out the Serious Eats blog (my blog list :-) for a Next Food Network Star update .....