Monday, January 26, 2009

Chores or Favors?

Ever since my kids can remember, they have been required to pitch in around the house with a daily chore of some sort, ranging from dish-duty or garbage detail, to yard work. I used to have it all written out, who had to do which job. Now we just operate on the fly, depending on what needs to be done. I've heard some whining over the years, but they seem to have accepted the fact that this will never go away so they may as well deal with it. The Oxford English Dictionary defines a chore: "a piece of (time consuming) drudgery." Yikes. Is that what I've been asking them to do all this time? Ever the idealist, I actually thought we were "all working as a team to improve our home environment!"

Luckily for me, my girls who are still at home have figured something out: if you want Mom to be extra-happy, just pick a chore that you can do before she thinks of it herself and do it. They're catching on so fast to the idea they can choose their work that I don't even stop to realize all the household tasks that are being neglected. On the days when this happens, I'm just happy they're helping out without my asking. And this is the magical point at which a piece of drudgery becomes a favor, "an act of exceptional kindness," as described in the dictionary. What a difference! Our home is not, nor will it ever be, the Martha Stewart-approved habitation I always envisioned. But when my teenagers choose to approach household maintenance in the spirit of kindness rather than obligation, it's much harder for me to notice the dust and smudges and they feel a sense accomplishment from taking the initiative. The smiles and laughter I hear coming from their happy hearts are the perfect trade-offs at the end of a busy day; the chore list can wait.

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