Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Me and my little wand

I suppose everyone wishes for a magic wand now and then, but especially a busy mother with young children.  Just think what we could get done in one day if we had one!

First thing after breakfast, we'd take it out of its hiding place. (We would never let a powerful wand lie around the house).  Why, you say?  Because the kids might turn their toys into live objects or wish for a gazillion guppies in the fish tank or transport themselves to the moon and back without our permission -- that's why. 

So, back to your own hiding place and out with the wand!  After breakfast each day, you take that little star stick and "Presto, Change-o" those musically-enhanced stars change things immediately!  Dirty dishes turn into sparkling-clean dishes resting on their proper shelves.  Gently tap the kitchen floor on your way out, and that same wand mops up breakfast spills and leaves the floor looking brand new.

It's on to the laundry room, where we zap that pile of dirty clothes into fresh and clean, pre-matched and sorted clothing.  And not just any clothing -- this kind floats or dances its own way down the hall to the proper bedroom closets and drawers.  All the while, we are standing there watching, hands clasped, a delighted little sigh escaping our lips.  Absolutely no effort required on our parts, except a little wave of the wand!

That's when a little voice behind us interrupts with "Mommy?"  We suddenly snap back to the kitchen of reality -- the one with cereal bowls still on the table, a puddle of juice in front of the fridge and the distinct drift that there may be a diaper close by that needs our attention.  

When we have to leave our little magic wands behind, we can either pout or praise our Lord for giving us something far more precious than a stick that sends musical stars blinging.  We have little helpers living at home that need to be trained to assist with household chores. 

More importantly, they are actually ready and willing to help if we will only let them pitch in while we work alongside.

You've probably had dozens of offers through the years -- those little tugs on your shirt or skirt while you're in front of a sink full of dishes.  The little voice that chortles, "Me help?"  And, as is so often the case, we say, "It's okay, Mommy will be done in a minute."

The problem with this is our misinterpretation of a child's request.  We thought they wanted to help, but children don't see us as *needing* their help.  In their eyes, we know everything and especially how to get a job done.  They've seen us do it before - again and again. 

What they want is a piece of the action! 

Those suds look like fun!  And how do the dishes go in one side of the sink and come out on the other so clean and shiny?   Or how does a mop do what it does?  And, oh, yes! May they please help play in (er, clean) the toilet?!?   Better train 'em while you can, Moms...

Years ago, I would transform myself into different characters while training our little ones to do chores.  On some days I was Mrs. Sweet, and they were coming to help sweep floors for me or load the dishwasher.  Mrs. Sweet was very kind, but she also fell asleep a lot and began to snore.  You can imagine how quiet our kiddos tried to be while Mrs. Sweet napped.  They also giggled and whispered when she snored!

On other days I was Miz Grump, finding fault with everything they did in a funny way, which made them laugh and try harder to do a job right the first time.  When Miz Grump finally smiled and bragged, they were so very proud!

Then there was Mrs. Honey, whose accent was so very Southern the children had to ask what she was saying sometimes.  Mrs. Honey would often talk about "My dearly-depotted husband got me those lovely dishes while serving as a sah-junt in the wah."   

Maybe it was silly, but we had a blast, the children loved the different women they 'worked for' and in the process, our household was in good shape.  My precious "magic wands" were hustling to pick up, dust, sweep, fold clothes and unload the dishwasher ... while I, pregnant with #3 at the time, had some time to sit down in the same room and direct them.  Or snore, if Mrs. Sweet was visiting.

You  may not invite Mrs. Honey, Miz Grump or Mrs. Sweet into your home, and that's okay.  What's important is that you find a way to lovingly train your children to help while they are willing and able.  All too soon they will be interested in other things and that very-clear window of opportunity will be streaked and cloudy.

We do our children no favors to let them grow up with no concept of responsibility.

 If you've already let too much time get by you, start out slowly.  Come up with a plan that involves time to interact with your child while making beds, sweeping the walk or sorting laundry.  Look your child in the eye, smile often and commend any effort put forth to assist you.  Be patient and compliment work done well.  Aware stickers or free time or play a game your child enjoys after chores are done.  In other words, make working together a pleasant experience. 

One more thing I'd have done back then if the magic wand existed.  I would have waved it over the table about 5 p.m. when everyone was hungry and tired and a little bit cranky for supper.  That's when I would have wiggled my wand and wished for a succulent roast, steamed veggies, a big salad and homemade yeast rolls on the table!

But magic wands don't exist, and I learned there's a far better way to get things done.  Involve the children in setting the table, preparing a pretty salad and putting some muscle into rolling out the rolls.

Training children takes time.  Lots of time, but in the long run, it pays good dividends.  They'll learn to make their own beds, keep their rooms neat and carry their dirty dishes to the sink after meals -- all without being asked. 

And all the while, you will be standing there watching in amazement -- hands clasped, a delighted little sigh escaping your lips.  Absolutely no effort required on your part -- except a little wave of the hand to get things done!   

1 comment:

  1. You have such wisdom, my friend...
    Hugs to you,


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