November 24, 2017

Parents used to be first- Now it’s all about the kids

By Ann Van De Water

 
I was telling my husband and ten year old twins the other night that when I grew up we didn’t have central air-conditioning.  Nobody I knew did. I grew up in Rochester, NY and a summer day that hit 85 was a news-breaking heat wave.  My Dad installed an air-conditioner in the family room where we often ate dinner and hung out in the summer and installed another one in my parents’ bedroom. 
 
“That’s not fair,” one of my kids said.  “Your parents got air-conditioning and you didn’t?”
 
My husband noted how now the kids would get the air-conditioner and Mom and Dad would suffer, since we always seem to put our kids’ comfort above our own.  I recalled that if my Dad didn’t like a restaurant and my sister and I did, we never went there, whereas now we often try to accomodate our kids’ preferences.  If the kids want to be driven to an activity or even an impromptu get-together, we drop whatever we’re doing and make sure they get to go.
 
This practice of constantly catering to our kids as a culture, and to my own kids, is taking a toll on us as a nation and certainly on me, personally. 
 
I broke my right hand this spring (I’m right-handed) after a fall off my bicycle, and needed my kids to “step up” in terms of their chores, picking up after themselves, and being responsible for themselves.  I discovered they are capable of doing more than I had expected from them.  My girls had been cleaning their bathrooms just before my accident, and continued.  They had stripped their beds, but now learned to put their sheets back on by helping each other.  They learned to sort their laundry and put it away.  They not only loaded the diswasher now, but learned to empty it, make their own breakfasts (and mine too!), lunches, and even parts of dinner.  I also taught one of my daughters to help style my hair. (That still needs some work, but she gave it her all!)
 
My kids did a great job being helpful for the month my hand was out of commission and even expressed that they were proud of their work.   But as a couple months have passed, they have started to slide again.  It is an effort on my part to make sure my girls are really participating in family chores and that Mom and Dad are not the only ones who do all the work, but I know that requiring such work from them is better for all of us in both the short and the long term. 
 
Ann is a former high school English teacher and now a stay-at-home mom to 10-year-old twin girls.
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