I grew up in the it's-faster-for-me-to-do-it-than-to-show-my-child-how-to-do-it school of parenting. My mother couldn’t wait for us to properly make beds, hang up clothes, rinse dishes, or iron a shirt — you name it, she did it for us.
Often, my brother and I would begin a task, only to be interrupted by her impatience at our lack of dexterity and speed. Mind you, she did it with a smile.
“No problem, let Mommy do this for you. Go get dressed so we can go,” she said with fake cheer through clenched teeth (that I only now recognize upon reflection).
So, I too have been known to adopt this frame of mind. Yet, as my girls get older, I have realized I can’t do it alone. I need their help. Not only that — I shouldn’t have to do it all alone when they are perfectly capable of helping. They have specific household chores they are responsible for, which they do without asking, like folding the laundry and unloading the dishwasher. They are also responsible for what they leave in their personal wake - clothes, dishes, unmade beds. For the most part, they are on task with all of this.
But the next frontier is what I call “initiative.” I want them to see things that need to be done around the house and take initiative to resolve the problem take without being asked. If your bathroom sink is dirty, clean it. If your clothes are dirty, throw a load of laundry in. If the mirror in your bedroom is dirty, clean it. If the trash looks full, take it out.
Instead of doing it for them, I have taken to leaving them notes along with the resources to do the tasks. Mind you, I know it would probably be faster for me to just do it than to leave the notes and the cleaning supplies, but I really feel like we need to get past this hurdle if they are ever going to live on their own.
If I don’t do this I can just picture the calls from college: “Mom, remind me about that whole laundry thing again, and the blue stuff in the spray bottle is for glass, right?”
Amanda is the mom of two, a reporter for WRAL-TV and the author of several books including some on motherhood. Find her here on Mondays.