Friday, June 17, 2011

The Morning Cleaning Crew

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If you ask my girls what they're up to this summer they'll probably roll their eyes and say, "cleaning." And that answer would pretty much be true, at least Monday through Friday before nine am.

I cannot abide lazy kids. My absolute, all-time favorite youtube video is an interview between comedian Louis C.K. and Conan O'Brien, where they discuss today's generation of "spoiled idiots" and how "everything is amazing, but nobody's happy." If you haven't seen it, you should watch it because it's not only hilarious, it's also fairly accurate.

I tell my girls all the time that they can choose to be whatever they want when they grow up, but whatever it is, they're going to have to work hard to get there. At least once a day I remind them, "We're hard workers in this family. We can do hard things!" Now before you begin imaginging sore little fingers being worked to the bone, let me qualify these comments by explaining that we do chores every morning after breakfast. It's not an all-day, every-day deal, it's just first thing in the morning. This week we used soapy water to wipe down all of our kitchen chairs and stools. The next day we cleaned the "booger" wall next to each of their beds. We also organized the DVD's, planted flowers outside, and organized their art supplies. That's five jobs for five days, and by Saturday I was able to say, "Look around at how much we accomplished this week!"

Despite this strict chore schedule, we are doing an extraordinary amount of playing this summer. Our best friends from England are here for three weeks, we still have a couple of trips ahead of us, and when we're home we get out of the house every single day to go swim, play at the park, or to see friends. When my girls start to grumble I remind them that it's actually not a bad deal to get chores over with by nine or ten in the morning, and then spend the entire rest of the day enjoying summer. And frankly I don't think we'd enjoy summer as much if it was all about the playtime.

As I get older it seems so clear to me how much the balance between work time and play time influences our sense of peace and happiness. I wrote about this subject in a previous post, likening too much playtime to too much frosting on my cupcake. But it's one thing for me to understand the benefits of hard work, and it's a whole different matter to teach it to my girls. Most kids, and many adults too, instinctively dread hard work. I want my girls to experience the other side of that coin. I want them to find out for themselves how great it can feel, how that sense of personal capacity expanding and goals being achieved can fill them in a way that playtime will never touch. I don't expect them to like it, but at the end of this week they can look backward and say, "This is what I did. I can work. I can do hard things." And that's enough for me.

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