I sometimes wonder whether I expect too much out of my kids.
Or rather, I know I do, but I wonder whether the too-much is just enough to stretch and challenge and propel them along their own paths, or if the too-much is just, well, too much.
It’s not so much about their behavior, although I know I set a high standard there… at least in public. They’re both well-spoken and good about “please” and “thank you,” able to order their own meals in restaurants and make small cash purchases by themselves (it’s truly astonishing how quickly nerves and shyness evaporate in the face of 50 cents’ worth of candy).
They seem happy with who they are, for the most part – Emily has a few sore spots, and we’re doing what we can to help with those – and they’re visibly proud when the bank tellers or grocery store clerks tell me what nice children I have. (And somehow the reply of, “Thank you, I like them, too. We’re even thinking of keeping them,” always takes them by surprise.)
No, I’m more wondering if I work them too hard around the house. Jacob, at almost-5, can effectively empty the dishwasher (placing anything that goes in the overhead cupboards on the counter, stacked by type and size), sort the recycling into its respective bins, and do any number of help-Mama sorts of tasks like matching socks or wiping down the bathroom sink. He’s starting to make his own sandwiches for lunch, and last night, having to remind him to clear his plate after dinner was noteworthy because he’d done it on his own for so long.
Emily, having four and a half years of extra indentured servitude under her belt, can do a complete load of laundry, from crumpled up on her floor to folded and sorted by owner. She can cook several reasonably complicated meals – her favorite is a baked dish we refer to as “The Chicken That Willem Loved More Than Life Itself” – and has become a world-class expert at independently cleaning her room, mostly because that child creates more chaos in five minutes, just passing through, than I can deliberately create in an hour. She gets a lot of practice with the “put your stuff away” skills.
They each get allowace – right now, a dime per chore, though I think Emily is on the cusp of a promotion to a quarter each – and, to an extent, can choose how many (or few) chores to do. There are days when my back is screwed up enough that I can’t empty the dishwasher myself, and even when I could, I feel like it’s reasonable to expect a certain amount of contribution to the general household maintenance just because they live here. So 4:00 each weekday afternoon begins a “homework and chores” period, lasting anywhere from a few minutes to an hour.
Really, in thinking about it, I don’t think it’s too too-much for them, because they don’t complain about it, they do their chores well, and they still find plenty of time to play and watch TV and argue with each other. But I wonder, what’s normal in other households? How much do/did your kids do? Am I really that much of a slave driver?