My kids are early risers. When I say early, it is a rule in our house that you cannot come out of your rooms until your clock says 6:00. You read that right, it’s not a typo: SIX o’clock. Most parents I know who have a similar rule use 7:00 as their time of choice; to that I say “I WISH!” Anyway.
Connor is 8 and Sam is almost 4. Connor is adept and able at making breakfast essentials: bowls of cereal, toast/bread with peanut butter & jam, bagels with cream cheese, frozen waffles with syrup. He can pour the milk easily, as well as cups of juice. It’s a wonderful blessing I tell you, given how early they wake. Because while it’s true that MOMD is too an early riser, even he likes to stay in bed until 7:30-8:00 on the weekends. You may have noted that I have not counted myself among the “early risers”; that’s because I’m not. I’m a Keenan through and through and would spend the entire day in bed if I could. 😀
But to the subject of this post: we have talked with Connor about his responsibility to care for his brother. Likewise, we have talked to Sam about his responsibility to care for his brother too. We’ve explained that one of the things we expect from them is that if they are asked to help with something, that they help. This is part of what it means to be in our family: we help each other. Many times for Connor, this means helping Sam to get his breakfast organized. Usually, Connor is quite happy to do this.
There was an incident about 2-3 weeks ago though, where I came downstairs later than usual, on a school morning, and Sam had not yet had breakfast. He got up after MOMD had left for work, and Connor “didn’t feel like” pouring Sam’s cereal. I said in response to this explanation, “Well that’s funny because I’ve decided that I don’t feel like making your lunch today either.” Connor’s eyes bugged right outta his head. I’m telling you, it was the best reaction – I wish I had had my camera! After I had calmed down a bit, and had organized Sam’s breakfast as well as packed Connor’s lunch, I explained to him that I count on his help, especially in the mornings, and particularly now in these last few painful weeks of pregnancy. I told him that it is very stressful when I come down in the morning and have just a few minutes to get everything ready for him, and the added work of Sam is enough to throw everything off kilter.
He nodded that he understood. The reasoning was sound, so how could he not? And besides: there’s no way that kid wants to make his lunch every day.
So fast-forward to Saturday morning. Somewhere around 7, Sam comes into our room and asks us to get up and make his breakfast. We tell him that Connor will be happy to help, and to go ask him. Sam says that he’s all ready asked Connor, and he is not helping. We assure him that if he asks again, Connor will help. Sam leaves the room, makes his way downstairs, and all is quite. Until about 20 seconds later when we can clearly hear his stomping around and shouting, “MAKE MY BREAKFAST! I WANT YOU TO MAKE MY BREAKFAST!”
As I’m sure need not be said, we were not sleeping in after this behaviour.
MOMD went downstairs and talked to Sam about his rudeness and that we were not happy with his yelling. When I came downstairs, he had also talked to Connor about his refusal to help. Connor’s position was that he was only obligated to assist on school-days, because Mom has enough to do and making Sam’s breakfast is too much. Sooo… at least he was listening before? I guess?
I told Connor that, as part of this family, we are required to help each other when we’re asked to. “If you are tired of helping him all the time, you can teach him and encourage him to pour his own cereal. That’s helping. Telling him ‘no’ is not helping. And I’m sure that you are not happy with the outcome of your decision, since you’ve had to talk to 2 people about this all ready today.” He nodded his head in agreement. We talked about the things that each of us do to help the family: Dad does the laundry, Mom does the cooking, Connor helps Sam, Sam clears his dishes, and so on. We talked about how we don’t always want to do these things, but that we do them anyway because people we care about are counting on us. I think he got the message…
But the talk got me wondering: Do I expect too much from my kids? What do you have your children do to help with the business of “Family”? Are there chore lists? Do you leave them be, trusting that things will come together when they’re older? Do you tie expectations to age?
Share with me, please, because navigating these waters of parenting is tough work when doing it alone; together though, we can lighten each other’s load. So then: to the comments!