When I first moved to Seattle, I did so with my two boys who were eight and four at the time. My husband stayed in Chicago for his job and commuted back and forth about every 10 days. It was a challenging time for us all. With a new demanding job and effectively being a single parent when Michael was in Chicago, I out of necessity involved the boys to help out more than they had before. I was raised that everyone in the family needs to participate in the everyday required activities. I gave each of the boys age appropriate chores. And surprisingly were able to lighten the load more than you would have expected. They would fold and put away laundry, fill and empty the dishwasher as well as pick up after themselves. I definitely had to modify my expectations but it was worth the trade-off. The boys were proud that they were making important contributions to keeping the family running. I also enjoyed the family bonding that came through this "team" approach.
Fortunately, Michael was able to join us in Seattle about 10 months later. The boys still help with chores. Since they are older, they can assist with more complex tasks. They help take care of their little sister, do the laundry themselves (although they never seem to check the pockets and have washed the likes of cell phones and i-phones - ouch!) and cook some meals. None of this happens, as any mother will tell you, without some level of "reminding" or if you ask the boys "nagging." My eldest is now a teenager and enjoys poking fun at his parents more. He calls me the “chore lady.” At least that is what he says to my face. When he is alone with his brother, I can only imagine.
One evening recently, I was exhausted and more than a little frustrated that I was telling him and his brother to pick up their room for the umpteenth time. He noticed how worn out I was. He asked me, "Mommy (he still calls me that if no one his age is around), why do you keep reminding me and Damian even though we forget so often." I explained that it was my job to continue to work to develop them into responsible individuals until they reached adulthood. He responded, “Please stop trying to make us be better, it’s exhausting you!” I couldn't help but laugh out loud which led to a quizzical look from him since he was being quite serious. He then gave me a big hug which always lifts my spirits . . but he still had to clean up. Below is a picture of the teenager helping with the toddler during a recent vacation. (I will spare you a picture of the room he shares with his now nine year old brother - we are still working on that.)