Tuesday 27 November 2012


My little scrubbers prepare for Daddy's wine making.
I read a really interesting series of articles recently from New York Magazine. The main heading was, "Why Parents Hate Parenting," which was a bit of an attention grabber! There were loads of interesting points made, some of which I totally got, and others which made my blood boil a bit- I recommend reading it:

 In one section it was talking about how the idea of childhood has changed so radically. Here's an abbreviated excerpt:
"Before urbanization, children were viewed as economic assets to their parents. If you had a farm, they toiled alongside you to maintain its upkeep; if you had a family business, the kids helped mind the store. But all of this dramatically changed with the moral and technological revolutions of modernity. As we gained in prosperity, childhood came increasingly to be viewed as a protected, privileged time.... Kids, in short, went from being our staffs to being our bosses."

It's certainly true that I never thought of having kids as an economic asset, and I would love to think I can give them a happy and care-free childhood, however I don't think there's anything wrong with expecting them to help out a bit! In fact, so far they generally seem to enjoy being helpful and being given the responsibility to complete a task. So long as it doesn't seem never-ending, and it has been sold to them as something fun rather than a chore, I reckon doing jobs can be as entertaining as any other activity.

Car washing.
As I've mentioned, the boys love nothing more than getting wet so washing anything is always a popular job. Needless to say they do not wash the car as well as the local carwash, but with plenty of warm, soapy water to start, and a session with the hose to finish,they do a perfectly adequate job- for free.

I've also let them wash the downstairs windows on the outside, and they actually want to be allowed to wash up after they've done some cooking with me or had the paints out- in fact they seem to get as much enjoyment from the clear up as from the original activity!

Hoovering your fingers = hilarious!

When it comes to housework, they both like hoovering and are pretty efficient at it too. As a baby Danny used to spend most of the time with the vacuum sucking his hands, feet, tummy...  but he's a bit more focused now! They're pretty good at mopping too, tho I learned early on to only put a very small amount of water in the bucket if you don't want the kitchen floor to end up like a swimming pool.

Sock-matching turned out harder than I thought!

 I once dreamed up a great game of hunt-the-sock, followed by intensive sock-matching. Only to discover that we had over 20 odd socks- who knows where they go?

I can't say they often volunteer to tidy their bedroom, which generally looks like a bomb site, but even that can be turned into a game- if you don't mind a bit of bribery. We have a load of those big, plastic tubs which are supposed to store their toys neatly in some big old wardrobes we inherited. I even labelled them Cars, Lego, Track etc dreaming of being organised and efficient. Unfortunately, small children love the sound of things being tipped, so it was often the case that toys got tipped out everywhere and not necessarily played with, leading to general chaos. However, they also love a challenge, so I discovered that if held the "vehicles" box and offered "a smartie if you can find 10 things with wheels..." etc they could be occupied for ages and would eventually pick up almost everything.
Other indoor jobs they seem to enjoy are- sorting the recycling, especially if it includes crushing cardboard boxes or the occasional drinks can; putting the washing into piles belonging to each family member; bringing in logs for the woodstove and stacking them in a neat pile; laying the table; feeding the cats etc

Any chance it'll end up IN the compost bin?

In the garden there are lots more useful things to do. Raking up leaves, grass cuttings or hedge-trimmings to put them in the compost bin is popular because they both love transporting stuff about in the wheel barrow.

They also love to be hoiked into the garden bin to squash down the contents for me, making room for more. In fact, it can be quite tricky to persuade them out again!
Now they are a bit older they know enough about plants that I trust them to do some weeding without pulling up all the plants in the flowerbed. When they were younger they used to pull weeds on our gravel drive- which is actually quite satisfying because they come up really easily with long stringy roots attached. They also like doing a bit of pruning- but still under supervision.

Three men went to mow...
After years of following Daddy around with their toy mowers, this summer Zac (aged 5)was allowed to do mowing for real for the first time. Martin offered him a pound to mow the back garden with the fly-mo (with its plastic blade attachment.) Zac was so thrilled to be allowed to do it he never claimed his pound but just pestered to be allowed to do it again, even though it took him over an hour to do the whole lot!
So grown up!

When I said I didn't see the children as economic assets that wasn't strictly true. I'm fully expecting them to cost us loads at this end of our lives together, but I'm hoping they may save us a fair bit in the future!! I'm extremely lucky to have a husband who is a DIY genius. He can turn his hand to pretty much anything, and if he doesn't know how to do something he'll find out and learn on the job. I encourage the boys to "help" him at every opportunity in the hopes that they will turn out to be just as handy as adults. I can't begin to work out how much it saves us not having to hire a mechanic to fix the vehicles, or a builder to improve the house, or  a chimney sweep, piano tuner, log man, dishwasher repair man etc etc! So far the kids help mostly extends to handing him screws or tools but they are definitely picking up some very useful skills...

Aaaah, the joys of power-tools and big machines!


  1. This is brilliant, you're doing a great job of teaching them how to look after themselves.

    1. Thank you! Their dad is a brilliant model of getting on and doing stuff for yourself, so I hope it will rub off!

  2. Here at Coombe especially on a Saturday changeover day all of our children have their own jobs, and that's how they earn their pocket money! They are also very fortunate to have acres to explore and enjoy their childhood, just being children. I think you are teaching your children great life skills and both of you are good role models and from what I see of the photos they are very happy children enjoying a great childhood. Thanks for sharing on Country Kids.

    1. Thank you! When we get to that stage they'll definitely earn their pocket money. I think it's good to understand that if you want things, you need to earn some money to buy them- I'm sure you feel more satisfied when you put a bit of effort into getting it. That's not to say the boys don't get plenty of treats too!

  3. I could not agree more! It is important to teach our children to help out whilst enjoying being little. You seem to be doing a great job with your little ones! Mel #LetKidsBeKids