I am at that crux of life where my children need me to be ever more vigilant. It is my contention that teens require almost as much if not more hands-on parenting as toddlers.
At the same time they are achieving milestones of freedom that mean they must learn to balance priorities and responsibilities for themselves.
I will go as far as to say that one of the best moves I made for our family personally was returning to the outside work force over the winter. I already pride myself on raising self-sufficient kids.
Even when I was working from home all day they have been expected from a very early age to be active team members in making this home and family run smoothly. They have had chores and responsibilities since preschool.
All that aside, they didn’t really pitch in to fully help run the household and make Team Seabolt work until I was away for hours every single day. During this magical time they did their own laundry and learned to cook.
Mr. Wonderful is already an amazing cook. His crab topped tilapia with roast seasoned asparagus is gourmet. Boywonder graduated from burgers and frozen fries to a fantastic shrimp pasta with cream sauce. GirlWonder branched beyond baking to an amazing repertoire of both new recipes and the tried and true.
I will go as far as to say that we ate better when we all pitched in than when I was head chef seven days a week. Let’s be frank, I start strong on Monday but by day five I’m really just phoning it in. Literally. Pizza it is!
They finally opened a deli here in the sticks (said with love). Now it’s cow, cow, more cow, llama (!), gas station, hardware store, more cow, deli! BoyWonder was there almost daily. I’m pretty sure he is to that deli much like Norm was to Cheers. Everybody knew his name.
With me out of the picture for hours each weekday they learned to do more for themselves. They not only survived but thrived.
Household chores aside, I think animal care is the ultimate experience. BoyWonder has gotten out of a warm bed on a cold night because the animals needed him. GirlWonder has walked fence lines in scathing heat and blowing cold to insure the animals in our care are safe and secure.
Both know of life, love, loss and the reality that animals need care, EVERY DAY. This is true even if you are busy, sick or “just not feeling it.” You can skip the dishes and no one really suffers (except, perhaps, mom’s psyche). You cannot skip a meal, medicine or shelter for another living creature.
I have long been a believer that all play and no work makes for a very bad boy (and girl).
BoyWonder has a job now. An actual, labor intensive, time clock punching, W-2 earning job and I could not be more proud. He is now juggling ‘real life’ responsibilities.
The other day he came home after a full day’s work and pronounced himself “exhausted.” Mr. Wonderful laughed and said “Now mow the lawn, take out the trash and carry something heavy for your mother. That’s MY day.” We all laughed, but it’s true.
I am proud to have raised comfortable, middle class kids with many of the perks of having hard working parent(s) (writing is work, sometimes I have to conjugate verbs — badly).
That said I refuse to raise ‘soft’ humans. I hear of nearly adult kids who still don’t help around the house. Who are incapable of making a simple meal, washing their own underwear, or keeping track of gas, groceries, or their own schedules and I am sad for them.
Academics are so important and as we head into the season of graduation — education is, by necessity, a focus. That said I hope more people understand the value of responsibility and good old fashioned hard work too.
Living next to a hardworking farm family all these years has set the bar high for our children to pitch in. No one is going to cry about having to unload the dishwasher when the neighbor kids have been in the fields since dawn.
My daughter, cannon balling with friends into our pool one hot summer afternoon had a friend look over and see the neighbor children working away in their field next door. Friend said to GirlWonder “I feel sorry for them.” GirlWonder, aware of the entire situation and how blessed and content that family always seems said simply “I don’t.”