Mother’s helpers

Holiday break is over and I finally have some writing time! (We played and played over break — sledding, skating, skiing, phew! We had a blast.) So I have a lot of topics swimming around in my head, but I’m going to start with an update on contributions, beginning with this chat I had with a friend of mine about her holiday plans:

  • Friend: “We always do dinner at my mother-in-law’s down the road. I’d love to have it at our house sometime, but I don’t like having my husband’s sister and brother over because they never help. I can’t blame them though, it’s how they were raised.”
  • Me: “Oh, you mean she doesn’t let them help?”
  • Friend: “No. She’s a lunatic! She has to have everything just so.”
  • Me: “Does she like it that way or does she complain that they don’t help?”
  • Friend: “Oh, she complains. She gets really crabby, so I step in and do the helping.”

Listening to this I heard Vicki’s voice loud and clear in my head: “Kids don’t grow out of, they grow INTO. Look around at the adults you know — the whiners, the blamers, the bossers, the avoiders, the stallers …” And here was proof. You want helpful kids? Let them help!!! Certainly easier said than done, but … it … works. Period.

Starting a habit of contributions at ages 7, 9, and 12 is a two-steps-forward, one-step-back process. But what’s the alternative? A crabby mom and kids who grow up not knowing how to help and feeling bad about it and then not being invited to dinners because they’re not helpful? Ugh. That is just not an option.

So onward we go. Day-to-day progress feels slow, but compared to six months ago? Amazing! We are at the point now where most days I don’t say anything and it all gets done. A couple of days a week, I do the yes-as-soon-as thing (which Charlotte has grown to despise. She said, “Moooom, why can’t you just say ‘When this is done, then we can…’” So ok, I’m easy!)

But it has not been easy to get here. I had to continually force myself not to slip back into grumpy-maid-mode. I still regularly stop myself in mid-reach, about to pick up after them like I did for ten years. I force myself to step over the stuff on the floor, to work around the dirty dish left on the table, and trust that it will get done later that day and that they are learning and forming new habits a tiny bit every day. And they are.

There were a couple of nights over the holiday when we were out and got home late and I excused them from their contributions. So I picked up the slack after they were all in bed and was reminded of all the work I used to do on my own!!! I told them the next day, “Oh my goodness, I did all your contributions last night and that’s a lot of work! So I want to thank you for all that work you’ve been doing. It makes a huge difference to me and our whole family!” Fenner did a big grin and said, “Yeah, mom, it is a lot of work!” And the next day I heard her after she’d picked up the mudroom, “Check out the mudroom, Ellen, it’s beautiful!”

Now that’s not to say I don’t still get attitude from them. I get plenty. Ignore, ignore, ignore. It’s their job to resist, it’s my job to encourage. The other night I left this note on the dishwasher:

And later I found this in its place:

These days I use humor as much as possible for a bad-attitude-antidote. That’s a habit I’ve worked to form, and that’s the reason Fenner’s note made me smile and think, “You go girl.”

ps Speaking of “You go girl,” I had a moment recently when I was able to completely reframe the “no.” I was at the grocery store with Fenner. She was tired after a long day, but still she came in and helped me get the list done. After we got back to the car I said, “Fenner, would you be willing to take the cart back?” She said bluntly, “No, mom. Sorry.” “Alright,” I shrugged and headed back with the cart. As I walked I thought, ok yes, it’s a bit aggravating to hear a flat-out “no” like that, but let’s think about it. Saying no when you really want to takes courage, and she felt safe enough to do that with me just now. There was no snotty attitude, she just really didn’t want to. I mean, how many people in this world have trouble saying no? How does it feel to say yes when you really want to say no? What does it do to relationships, and to peoples lives when they can’t say no?

The courage to say no is an important thing. The love and trust that allowed Fenner to say no is a beautiful thing. The crucial c’s that will lead to more yes’s is an ongoing thing.

Explore posts in the same categories: Weeks following: Contributions

7 Comments on “Mother’s helpers”

  1. Sblanck Says:

    LOVE that end part about the no. So amazing to look at that way instead of getting annoyed about the no. thank you thank you!

  2. Debby Says:

    Glad to see you back! Tonight my son opted not to do his contribution ( he was mad at me and at his sister). We have an agreement that contributions are part of a few things that get done before computer or TV time. When he asked to use the computer, I said, “oh, sorry – you chose not to do your contribution tonight.”. He said, “oh, yeah…” and took it right in stride without even sulking. This is the King of temper tantrums! He created the lesson for himself so maybe it will sink in for next time. In the meantime, I was relieved at the lack of melodrama.

    We are starting all over with week 1 next week and it’s going to torture me, how disgusting the house is going to get. But your assurance that persisting in NOT doing the clean-up myself will over time help them learn to participate, is motivating! Thanks.

    • flockmother Says:

      Took it in stride — how fabulous. You totally gave him the space to own it. Makes such a difference.

      Would love to know more about your starting over. So you did the whole 12 weeks before? How long ago? What is motivating you to start again?

      • Debby Says:

        We have been erratically applying different parts of the program over the past 4 or 5 months – now with Vicki on MomTV, going to do the whole thing in order.

  3. Vicki Says:

    Bravo. It was worth the wait. Your posts seem so timely. I am getting ready to start the 12 Week Program on MomTV beginning next Monday and I will act as both teacher and student during the next 12 weeks.

    YIKES. It’s gonna be a great learning process for me.

    I loved the “no” part of your post as well. I so agree with you. Especially when it comes to young girls and their ability to really stand in a “no” without all the melodrama or victim playing.

    Your girls rock. Lets do another workshop soon.


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