Tomorrow’s Parent Journey at the church I serve is devoted to a discussion of a piece Elizabeth Kolbert wrote in the New Yorker last summer, a review of parenting books titled “Why Are American Kids So Spoiled?” “Why do kids rule the roost?” she asked, and my immediate reaction was, “Do they?” She seemed to be making the mistake so many social commentators make who can’t be bothered to actually research a question or even look up others’ research: generalizing from her own experience.
I’ve encountered this before in the parenting realm, in an otherwise enlightening book called The Mask of Motherhood whose author got on my nerves by making assertions such as (this is a paraphrase) “fathers don’t do as much of the parenting work because we mothers don’t let them–we want to be in control, don’t we, ladies?” I wanted to say, “You might prefer control to an equal sharing of the load, but we don’t all.” When Kolbert told about picking up ” the used tissues, ant-filled raisin boxes, and slimy Saran Wrap scattered across the yard” after her son, Aaron, did an inadequate job of taking out the garbage, I was filled with scorn. She dares to claim that we’re all as wimpy as she is, and then excoriate us for it!
On the other hand, while I do not pick up the nasty garbage dropped by my daughter, who is less than half Aaron’s age–I make her do it–the article did prick my conscience about just how little we expect Mookie to do around the house. Reading all of the Laura Ingalls Wilder books with her over the past year has been a sobering reminder that five-year-olds are perfectly capable of washing the dishes, drying and putting them away, sweeping the floors, etc. And I always get a rosy, we’re-doing-good-parenting feeling when Mookie drops her breakfast dishes into the sink without being asked. Then I feel a little silly, and remiss, that that is one of the very few expectations we have of her as a citizen of the household.
That is changing, however. We decided that her sixth birthday would mean an increase in privileges and responsibilities: she would begin to get an allowance, and also (separate from the allowance) do a few daily or weekly chores around the house. Now to actually decide what those should be. Suggestions?