What a chore: My Kids Have it Easy


photo credit: Kalexanderson via photopin cc
photo credit: Kalexanderson via photopin cc

Do kids still do chores?

I mean, in the age of the iPod, iPad, and “I-don’t-really-have-to-make-my-bed,-do-I?” Are chores a thing of the past? My kids don’t have one of those nifty middle-class-America-family charts on the fridge, to outline which duties each kid is to perform.

Mackenzie clears the table, Cooper takes out the trash, Octavio makes the tortillas.

They can sign up on their own for household tasks – loading/unloading dishwasher, cleaning the cat’s room, folding laundry. But it’s a volunteer program, not prison labor, like I envision it when I hear the word chore.

It’s more of a country-club atmosphere than Alcatraz.

Plus, they have to do it if they want their own funds to blow on the clearance-aisle ZuZu pets, plastic lizards in the school store, or ring pops for their cousin. They’re paid like third-world factory workers, too.

Life, the Erbes way

The Erbeses lived next door when I grew up in Greeley, Colo.

They were a hardy, Texan family: two boys, two girls, a dog and a cat. Country music-listenin’, Lord-praisin’, loogie-spittin’. Earl. Judy. All four kids’ names began with R. Plaid shirts, trucker hats, belt buckles/

The took Saturday morning hardware-store trips, in the truck, just because.

I envisioned church revivals and big, country meals being served in the Erbes’ kitchen. The kids couldn’t come out to play football or marbles or throw rocks at things until their chores were done.

I’d never been in their back yard, only saw it between the slats on the fence; but I imagined hard labor being done there. Chickens fed, wood chopped, rocks broken, hogs slaughtered. With a snort and a wipe of the brow.

Man, that would suck.

In my cush world, I had to remember to clean up the kitchen after making a grilled cheese sandwich and a glass of Kool-aid while I watched Bonanza. Saturday was cleaning day in the Pacheco house. Windows open, Donna Summer on the radio, dust flying.

Dad’s tale of hard labor

I knew just where the Pledge and Windex were, and I knew enough to know those wooden shelves on my waterbed weren’t going to dust themselves.

I couldn’t expect to do anything with friends until MY chores were done. Seriously? That’s the hard-labor story I’ll tell my kids when explaining the benefits of grunt, manual labor being part of a child’s character development?

Gee dad – I can see how being made to change your own sheets EVERY WEEK gave you the discipline you need to, um, sit on press row for an entire football game, eat food, and bang out a game story. It’s like you were in the military, or something.

Did no one notice I had to carry firewood once a year from the bed of my dad’s truck to the backyard, or that I had to crush aluminum cans with the remnants of a broken car axle just to get the $13 a full barrel of cans would fetch back in those days?

I was practically a lumberjack.

Who am I kidding? I bet the Erbes kids saw me through the fence, while they shared a single ladle of water from a small bucket between rock-breakin’ and hog-slaughterin’, and plotted how they’d someday all four just kick my ass.

I just hope I remembered to take off my apron if I’d been dusting that morning.

chores quote

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21 thoughts on “What a chore: My Kids Have it Easy”

  1. Yes our children today don’t understand the meaning of “chores”. It brings to mind my military upbringing when we were put on “restriction”… not grounded… Restriction! HA! Hard Labor Camp for sure! Even my own children didn’t know the meaning of Chores but now they live on their own and know full well the word responsibility. If we can teach them that then our job is done! Good story!

    1. I’m kind of glad kids don’t know the chores we did (who am I kidding? the generation before us), because life was tough then and child mortality was probably through the roof. I think all kids looked like the orphans on “Annie.” Restriction is harsh – the first time I got it, it was for two weeks, for eating bacon bits from the salad bar with my fingers. (dad shook his head every time he looked at me through that meal).

      If I can remind my girls to do their stuff, and remember to try and help someone else out, too, I’ll be happy.

      Thanks Renee!

  2. OH SOOOOOOO TRUE!!! I tell my kids they are spoiled and don’t even know the meaning of hard work EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. And yet, I bribe them to go grocery shopping with me and still do waaaay too much for them! They are expected to do certain things around our house, but nothing compared to the good ol’ fashion days. They just don’t know how good they got it! 🙂 Much to our credit.

    1. Amen, sister. Thing is, I don’t know what hard work EVERY.SINGLE.DAY is, either, but I can pretend. My girls beg me to take them with me when I hit the grocery store, because they’re banking on me caving to their whims when I’m there. We foodies are easy prey for hungry children.

      You’re right, though – the kids have it good these days because that’s the way we kind of want it, right?

      Doesn’t mean it would kill them to wash daddy’s car now and then. And rub his feet.

      Oh, wait, that sounds more like servant work. Either/or, though.

  3. Recently my Little Guy said he wanted to quit karate (we sacrificed some things to afford it) so I said he could quit, and I could put him to work to pay me back for his karate lessons. Then I reminded him of how little he does now…and what sorts of things I would expect for the next 3-4 years it would take to repay me. I told him flat-out that he wouldn’t be playing and watching TV, that he’d be working so hard that within 1 week, he’d be begging to go back….he drags his tail to get ready to go now, but he hasn’t quit yet. We can renegotiate when his year is up!

    1. Will you run for president?

      Please?

      The cool thing about your deal is you’re reminding him of what things are worth – beyond just money. Taking karate costs money and requires other sacrifices, such as you even taking him there, and maybe even the cost of those boards they split with karate chops. Plus, we don’t want the kidlets to start the habit of quitting when times get tough, right?

      Well done, Jenn!

  4. […] Grace, already ashore for a hot dog and can of generic root beer, watches as one of about seven boys swiped the ball from her sisters. She didn’t dive in to help. Did she know she wouldn’t have to? She parked it at the end of my lounge chair like it was a box seat. The look she shot back at me said she felt sorry for the boys – and that she remembered I was a boy, too. […]

  5. Being a Texas Gal myself, I loved your description of your Texan neighbors. Sounds just like my Father’s large family growing up on the Texas farm. Great post.

  6. Ah chores… honestly I grew up with my fair share and although I did not necessarily look forward to them, I’m grateful my parents insisted on them. We had our weekly caper chart, tasks rotated as there were four of us, so no one got stuck doing the same dirty job over and over… and our allowance was somewhat tied to our chores.. Great life lessons learned I have to say. My husband and I have not been as disciplined with our daughters. They do help out of their own free will but it’s not the same. We keep saying we’re going to put up our schedule but somehow we never seem to get around to it… Great post. I much enjoyed it and the many comments!

    1. When I post something, that’s just the beginning of the fun. It’s what commenters add that makes the pizza!

      I think a lot of us are in this quandary, Valerie. How much should we have the kids do? So many kids not only don’t have chores, but they get the servant treatment from their parents.

      It’s a much tougher world to parent in, I believe.

  7. Oh man, don’t remind me about the chores as a child. It was mindless mate. I was cooking, cleaning, stoking the fires, cleaning my mothers false teeth, and lots more by the age of 6 and I’m not joking at all.
    6 is a little early but regardless to how much I complained, it really did teach me a good lesson in life. It doesn’t matter if the washing machine breaks down, I can hand-wash. It doesn’t matter if the dish-washer fails, I can wash with cold water and fairy liquid. I don’t need a fancy vacuum cleaner as I can sweep with an old fashion broom. You see, it paid off in the long run. Thanks for the memories.

    1. You were hardcore. I was hardcore, if you count making my own grilled cheese sandwiches and dusting my Star Wars spaceships hardcore.

      You’re right, in that the lessons are good – and one day, if you have false teeth of your own, you’re ahead of the game.

      Glad it brought back memories, and in all seriousness, those who did have to do things the hard way are a step ahead when emergencies arise.

      Some of us will be clueless.

  8. Above all else coachdaddy… I had to dust off the piano. It had a ginormous amount of bric-a-brac on it and was a pain to dust. No one played it; it just sat there like the dust magnet it was. Now… dusting is like the last thing I do. As for kids… they don’t have set chores… and most of the time they expect a reward. As in $$$. Mine are 14 and 12 (almost 13). I enjoyed reading this post.

    1. So how often must a piano be dusted? At least twice as often as my set of harmonicas, I can imagine, and that’s without the bric-a-brac.

      Your story does remind me of the pretty rock Thoreau found when he built his cabin in Walden. He kept it on a table, but noticed it required regular dusting. So, he tossed it back outside.

      I blame the show “Cory in the House” for kids loving cash so much. Mine can get like that.

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