By Emma Toomey.
As school holidays arrived, and I found myself yet again hurtling towards the inevitable happy chaos of a large family Christmas, I again bemoaned the domestic ineptitude of my darling children. The normal circumstances that seem to keep things chugging along in a fairly civilised manner – helping with dishes, taking out rubbish, feeding the dog, putting dirty clothes in basket – had disappeared as the silliness of the season descended.
Why couldn’t my kids help with the washing/cooking/cleaning that so routinely falls to the adults of the household, I wondered? I’ve always considered it an important part of my parental responsibility to unleash capable and self-sufficient young adults on the world, so where was I going wrong? I was clearly off course.
One morning as I was going over my seemingly endless to-do list, my almost 13-year-old audaciously requested poached eggs for breakfast. “Don’t be helpless,” I barked. “Get them yourself.” His frustrated reply: “I’d love to get them myself but you’ve never shown me how to make them.”
It was an eye-opening moment. How could he know when he’s never been shown? We’re so often warned to be conscious of the behaviours our children are observing in us and absorbing as if by osmosis – arguing, drinking habits and swearing. But unfortunately ‘monkey see monkey do’ doesn’t extend to domestic duties. I was imposing unrealistic expectations on my children to perform tasks they had never been properly taught. Using a washing machine and cooking a meal are activities that I perform so regularly that I don’t give them a second thought, but at some point along the way someone showed me the ropes; they showed me which buttons to press and how to crack an egg.
My resolution these holidays is to take the time to demonstrate to my kids a few important household jobs, step-by-step. They actually like the idea of having a small but impressive repertoire of recipes to impress their future partners, and even if the fine art of vacuuming behind the couch carries a little less romance, I think we’ll all benefit.