My parents taught my sister and I a lot of things growing up. They gave us responsibilities and taught us to be self-sufficient and self-reliant, preparing us to be grown-ups. They taught us how to do a lot of things that many of my peers never learned to do until they had left home and had to figure things out for themselves. Although I sometimes grumbled as a kid, I am now grateful to my parents for all their guidance. We learned the value of hard work and the satisfaction of a job well done.
I am a big believer in getting children involved with learning how to help out around the house early. Already Abby has her own chores- she puts her dirty clothes in her hamper, picks up her toys each night before bed, and “helps” me fold laundry (which mostly consists of running off with wash rags and unfolding towels). As she gets older I want to teach her all I can to help prepare her to be a successful adult.
Below is a list of ways my parents taught us or things they did to help us learn to be adults.
1. Cleaning house
Each Saturday morning from an early age my sister and I would help our mom clean house. Our chores were age appropriate, of course, but we learned how to do all sorts of things from cleaning out the refrigerator to dusting to vacuuming to watering plants.
My mom taught us how to help with laundry, even before we were big enough to run the washer and dryer ourselves. We would often help with collecting laundry from the laundry hampers, separating the clothes into different piles for washing (whites, darks, jeans, delicates, etc.), matching socks, and putting our clean clothes away. Later we learned the ins and outs of washing and drying. We also hung wet clothes on the clothesline outside and took them down and folded them.
3. Washing dishes
As kids we began washing dishes. Mostly in the beginning we just liked to stand on a chair at the sink and play in the sudsy water, but we learned to really wash them and also how to load and unload the dishwasher. Later when I was in middle school it became our job each evening after supper to put the food away, clean the table, and wash dishes.
I remember being very young and “helping” Mom cook. A lot of “helping” was begging to be allowed to lick the beaters when she made frosting or to taste test cookie dough. My sister was never as interested in cooking as I was, but we both learned basic cooking early. We were allowed and encouraged to experiment with cooking. I’ll never forget my sister’s first attempt at making a cake all by herself- she didn’t follow the recipe and instead of baking the cake in the oven, she tried cooking it in the microwave. I’m not sure how she didn’t start a fire with the aluminum pans in the microwave. The cake was soupy around the edges and hard as a rock in the center.
My sister and I would pick up rocks and sticks before our parents mowed the lawn. We helped water flowers and water the garden. We picked vegetables and pulled weeds. In the fall we would rake leaves.
6. Taking care of pets
Over the years we had several outdoor cats and my sister had a hamster. It was our responsibility to make sure the animals all were fed, watered, and taken care of.
Mom did most of the main shopping, but occasionally we would be sent down the block to the local grocery store. My father had an account set up on credit (we lived in a very small town) so we could pick up the sugar or butter or whatever it was Mom needed.
My parents allowed us lots of freedom to play and have fun, but they always put a emphasis on the importance of our education. They encouraged our academic efforts and made sure that we always had our homework done each night. Schoolwork had to be finished before we could play video games or have TV or computer time.
9. We weren’t spoiled
As a parent I want to give my child so much. I see toys she would like or a cute outfit and sometimes have to fight the urge to buy it. She has enough and wants for nothing. If there is something she needs she gets it. It is hard to say no sometimes when she asks for toys in the store, but I feel it is important not to always give kids everything they want, just because. I remember lots of kids from school who I always considered spoiled back in the day… they always had new things, never did chores or anything to earn them. The kids didn’t appreciate or take care of the things they were given. I knew my parents worked hard for what we had, and the same goes for me now.
10. I had a job
From about age 12 and on I “worked.” I took babysitting jobs on weekends to pay for stuff like makeup, books, posters for my bedroom, and other stuff. When I was a sophomore in high school I babysat each day after school, which gave me spending money for going out on the weekends and clothes. When I was a junior I wanted to drive to school instead of riding the school bus so I worked afternoons and weekends in the local hospital kitchen to pay for gas. I lived 17 miles away from my school so I had to be responsible and earn money if I wanted the privilege of being able to drive. Even though I had a job my parents made sure that I still put my school work first and still had fun.