A balancing act

Apparently, somewhere in Actual Fact-land, according to a source who shall remain nameless, there is a mother out there who wakes up at 6 a.m. for the sole purpose of making smoothies for her children. Well, O.K. so what? Well, it just struck me as a little odd, seeing as how when I go out for smoothies, it is usually a teenager who makes them. And these children who are rising at six for fruit filled dreaminess are also teenagers. Teenagers incapable of using a blender, apparently. These same teenagers, along with their younger siblings, are also incapable of making their own lunch, getting through the school day without calling their mother on their cell phones, and won't eat food made by anyone else - packaged or otherwise (but they will eat fast food). People! What are we doing to our children? We love them, so we make them smoothies. But we forget to teach them to make smoothies for themselves. We love them, so we put barbecue chicken and kiwi in their lunches. (again - this mother, not me) We don't want to force them to cook for themselves - after all, we are the caregivers, the nurturers, the MOTHERS, feeding our children is our JOB. And if they like my food so much that they won't eat anything else anyone makes, is it my fault? Well, maybe not. But maybe it is. It is also our job to socialize our children so that they can interact with other adults in a meaningful way when they reach adulthood. That part seems to get neglected. And so we send them off to college, off to meet new friends, possibly live in a new state, face unheard of academic pressures, and just generally learn to be adults, and they don't even have the comfort of knowing that at least their smoothies will taste the same. These kids are far from unique. There are plenty of kids who reach 18, leave home, and are just shocked to the core when they start to do everything for themselves that their parents did for them. Make car insurance payments? What? What is this "laundry" of which you speak? Oh! A credit card! Goody! "APR?" Gobbledy gook that I don't understand. After all, nobody mentioned it at home, so it must not be important. I myself had very few life skills when I entered adulthood. I still lack them. I cannot solely blame my parents. I didn't feel the need to educate myself as to how to barbecue chicken. It didn't seem nearly as important as who asked who to what dance and what they wore and was it fun and can you tell me all about it again, and let's rehash the evening ad nauseum. It's the nature of teenagers. Total self absorption. Well, maybe it was only me who was self absorbed as a teenager. But we do need to teach them to 'snap out of it' (face slap optional). HERE is a washing machine! Use it! HERE is some raw chicken! Don't give yourself or our family salmonella while you're cooking it. THIS is a blender. Press the button to acheive smoothie nirvana! I know there are always things we could teach, and the pressure to teach them everything is enormous. There will always be something. ("Mom! Why didn't you teach me how to deal with two-year-olds!") I am not trying to dump more guilt on an already guilt-filled demographic of mothers. I am just trying to achieve some perspective -some balance between serving our children and making them self sufficient. Plus....and this is a big plus....if they make their own smoothies....you can sleep in much longer.


Blogger Jamie J said...

I am SO with you on this! I see so many children who don't know how to do anything for themselves and it drives me nuts! Frankly, I think it's the parents feeling guilty about not being able to spend enough time with them, so they pamper them, and do everything else for them. This is NOT a good way to prepare someone for the real world.

3/04/2006 11:14:00 PM  
Anonymous Selwyn said...

Plus, if you teach them how to make smoothies, they can make YOU one!!

There are parents at my 4 year old son's kinder who don't ask their child to do anything (or expect them to do anything except "please stop that" and "please play nice) - not even try to put cutlery on a table or pull a doona up on their beds.... but the kids get pocket money!!!!!!!

I'm all for raising children to be responsible adults - particularly the type who know how to make my favourite smoothie!

3/05/2006 12:20:00 AM  
Anonymous Nature said...

Even MORE annoying to me is the rash of Mormon moms who don't have their kids do chores or have jobs because "they're [the kids] already so busy with school, and sports, and lessons, etc., etc." So your 18 year old is going to be a great center-fielder, but won't know how to wash his underwear in the dorms next fall. Or your 25 year old will still be getting his weekly allowance from you to pay for his dates. "Ahh, but they're *such good kids!*" they say. But their roommates and spouses are going to get really annoyed really fast. And good kids shouldn't do chores? Are they teaching them that chores are solely a punishment? If so, what does that say about themselves? They are bad women, and thus have been sentenced to a life of doing everyone else's jobs?

How do these moms think that their lovely, talented children are going to get through living on their own, when they have to work, keep a house, cook for themselves, go to classes, study, AND have a social life? Is something magical going to happen when they are handed their apartment key that will instantaneously give them all of these skills that Mom has been neglecting all those years?

I just don't *get* all of these moms, who I think are otherwise great people, and whom I am close friends with -- how they can think so differently than me on this? Am *I* going to turn into this when my kids are in middle school?

3/05/2006 12:35:00 AM  
Anonymous Susan M said...

A lot of it for me is just laziness on my part. It's easier to do things myself than take the time and teach the kids to do it. They never do it right, anyway, etc.

That said, my kids have been doing laundry, dishes and cooking for themselves for years now. Thanks mainly to their dad, who was Mr Mom for years.

3/05/2006 12:45:00 AM  
Anonymous jbn said...

Don't be so harsh on the parent of a teenager until you are one. Sometimes making a smoothie at 6 a.m. is the only time you and your teenager have together. And just wait, teenagers are much more emotionally needy than 2-year-olds, and they are aware if their parent thinks they are "worth" the sacrifice of waking up early along with them. Just you wait, 'Enry 'Iggins...

3/05/2006 01:37:00 AM  
Anonymous Mary said...

Selwyn, what is a doona?

In my family of 7 girls growing up, we all had chores and an orchard to work in. Work was taught from an early age. Sometimes it was fun, sometimes we complained a lot, but I have great memories of it! For our 12th birthday, among other things, we were each given our own laundry basket, signaling time to do your own wash. No way was my mom about to keep up with 7-girls worth of laundry!

I had a professor at BYU (Sis. Bahr) who has written some interesting articles on "family work" and how it helps kids feel important to the makeup of their families.

3/05/2006 11:04:00 AM  
Blogger The Wiz said...

Good point. I don't have teenagers yet, so I will probably eat all my words when my kids get there.

But, I worry about this a lot for my kids. I am constantly worried that I don't teach them to work, and my oldest is only six. If I'm stressing about it now, I can only imagine how I'll feel in ten years.

But I do like to sleep in.

3/05/2006 11:16:00 AM  
Blogger FrogLegs said...

My seven yr old makes dinner on Monday nights, and breakfast on Saturday mornings. He washes his clothes, cleans his bathroom, takes out all trash- and puts dishes away. I guess I came from a family where chores were expected. It's hard for me to grasp others not feeling or doing the same. I am very grateful for my kiddo, he's a wonderful kiddo :)

3/05/2006 11:29:00 AM  
Blogger Tracy M said...

You all may think I'm crazy (my mom does) but I already have my 4 1/2 year old help with the laundry, and even my 2 year old can sort the "dark" things from the "white" things. They think it's a fun game at this point, and I am hoping this "game playing" will lead to good work habits later. T

The older boy also helps with vacuuming (power-tools!) and with setting and clearing the table. It's just part of daily life in our house.

We have also explained, if he wants a special toy or treat, he can earn money, but he has to do something other than the regular things we all contribute to the family. He does not get paid for cleaning his room, or clearing the table- that is just part of being in a family. He does earn extra money if he helps dad pull weeds, or folds the clean towels- anything that is not a regular responsiblility.

Am I nuts? Are my kids too young for this? I definately do little things to show them I love them, but I don't want to be like my mom, who still mades breakfast & does laundry for my brother in his twenties. That doesn't seem to be helping anyone out, least of all my brother!

3/05/2006 01:33:00 PM  
Blogger Jewel said...

My two cents-

I don't think it is too young or unreasonble. I think it is actually a disservice to our children to be easy on them.

However, I do agree, sometimes at six am, that is a good time to sit and visit with my teenaged daughter (14), whom I KNOW appreciates the alone time with me and is well aware of the sacrafice of my sleeping.

We do the love and logic thing. We have a chore chart that includes all aspects of house and yard care. The girls and boys all have to learn all of it. The girls change the oil and the boys cook. We also don't let them work during the school year, except for us. And we have a dry erase board with extra things tacked up with a dollar amount. They can earn money for things they need or want.

Its not perfect, but it has worked well for us. Jay our oldest will graduate this year, and I am confident that he knows: laundry, vaccuming/dusting and basic cleaning. He can cook a huge variety of things, and he can maintain his car fairly well. When he starts at the U in Sept, I hope he is prepared. I am sure there are things he won't know to do.. but I have tried to prepare him. (Crossing fingers)

I just think it is important.. *shruging shoulders* It maybe though.. that *laughing* to myself, it was all in vain. WHO knows.

*Grin* We'll see.

3/05/2006 05:34:00 PM  
Anonymous Selwyn said...

Mary - um, a "doona" in Australia is I think a "duvet" or "eiderdown" in the UK and/or States... I think! (Fluffy down/feather/material filled blanket!)

Frog Legs and Tracy M - I think it's great that your kids know how to work - and all the better if it's fun! I know many memories are made, and special time together, when chores are done together.

Frog Legs - what sort of things does your son cook?

3/05/2006 06:23:00 PM  
Blogger Lammy said...

First time reader and Commenter here...interesting post

We have these duvet's or doona's... In Germany, they're called "fetterdecken" or Feather Decken (american translation):)

I'm a multiple teenager mom... and I get up with my kids at 5am EVERY SCHOOL DAY for Seminary. Not because they can't do for themselves, but because I want to.
That said,

I think that too many mothers get caught up in being their kids' "Friend". I cannot tell you how many mom's I'm friends with who will not make their kids do things because their kids might not like them....or even (dare I say??) hate them!
I'm not saying we shouldn't be friends with our children... but my job as a mother, is to train my children in everything I know, and to train them to be better than I am. It's not ever 'easy' and it never ends...and I've not always done a perfect job with it... but over the course of years, a friendship has developed between me and my teens... but it's because we work on that as well as the learning, not instead of it.
Too many of my friends feel that you have to be popular to your children for them to listen to you.

It is absolutly not true.

Teens regognize when you feel spending time with them is worth it, but they also recognize teaching them to be self sufficient is worth it too.

3/05/2006 08:56:00 PM  
Blogger FrogLegs said...

Selwyn: nothing crazy hard, he's 7! But he can do these on his own (Yes, I watch when he's at the stove- but I don't "help"): pancakes, ramen, mac & cheese, grilled cheese, really simple pizzas, and hamburgers. The burgers are a new one. We do something "new" every 2-3 months. He loves it! :)

3/06/2006 11:46:00 AM  
Blogger Heather O. said...

Frog legs-

I'm very impressed! I hope my sone is as independent at age 7. Right now I get exasperated that he refuses to use the toaster to make a simple piece of toast!


I think the Wiz's question is more along the lines of when does service to our children turn into a disservice? It's nice to be up with your teenagers before they go to school and make them smoothies, but can TOO much service actually be detrimental to a child's independent growth and development?
That's the tricky issue, I think.

3/06/2006 12:12:00 PM  
Blogger Cheryl said...

My 3 year old and my almost 5 year old help empty the dishwasher, clear the table, set the table, makes their beds, fold laundry, help put away laundry, dust, pick up toys (of course) and sometimes they help with dinner. (And I didn't say they always like it! Or cooperate!) My 19 month old throws away his diapers. That's about it for now..he's not very work motivated yet. :)

Teaching kids to work tends to be a past thing mostly because 99% of us don't work on farms anymore. It's not just the fact that kids are spoiled, it's because THERE'S NOT MUCH WORK TO BE DONE.

Imagine our grandparents back in the day with no TV, no video games, no scooters, no internet, only one car (if that) per household, no swiffer wet-jets, no maids, no gardeners, no microwaves, and pretty much no money. They had to sew and bake everything. Do we? Not likely.

It's harder to find things for kids to do that is hard work now-a-days. But I say kudos to all you moms that are trying to teach your kids the value of hard work and the value of earning your keep.

3/06/2006 12:16:00 PM  
Blogger Thoroughly Mormon Millie said...

I read the biography of Abigail Smith Adams, John Adams' (U.S. President) wife, and around the age of 17, her family TRAINED her to do things like make candles, sew her trousseau, preserve food, quilt, stock her linen closet, etc. This was the culmination of a lifetime of chores and work around the house, and it's the way young girls were brought up then, just the same way as boys being apprenticed to be blacksmiths, etc. It would be great if we would embrace teaching these skills to our children. If there was some kind of disaster or major change in the U.S. way of life or the economy, these girls and boys would be much better off having learned skills.

I came into married life knowing how to make spaghetti, cake, and chocolate chip cookies. I would have loved it if my mom had had time to teach me more. The rest of it I've had to figure out as time has gone by and there's still a lot I haven't figured out yet. :)

3/06/2006 03:17:00 PM  
Blogger MommyWithAttitude said...

Excellent post! I do too much for my kids (2.5 and 4.5) in practice because it's easier for me now. But in theory I know it's important to take the time to teach them how to do it and to let them do it imperfectly. So I try to remember that.

I'm their mother, not their slave.

But as for the finding time to spend with teenagers, I can see how that would be a great idea, assuming that it's a special thing and not part of an overall "mom is the servant, we are the kings" arrangement.

3/08/2006 01:23:00 PM  

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