Mom's Release

The trials and tribulations of a mom of four great kids!

Letting go of the Control Freak in me…and Raising Responsible Kids!

on August 18, 2011

With four kids in our house, life is often a tad chaotic, to say the least.   Added to this ever-present chaos, I’m a bit (ok, a LOT) of a control freak…I like things done a certain way (and by that, I mean MY way), which I’m sure, causes things to seem more chaotic than they have to be.  When our first two kids were small, I can remember my mom telling me I should make sure to have them help pick up the toys at the end of the day.  My reply was simply that by the end of the day, I didn’t want them to be doing anything but getting into bed!  When we grew to four kids, however, I found myself feeling very overwhelmed by everything that had to get done in the house daily and how much was left at the end of the day, in spite of the fact that I was at home!

As they all got older, things steadily became  more chaotic.  Three kids in hockey, one in riding, a husband starting his own business, and me consulting left little time to get much done.  We decided it was time to enlist the help of the many “able bodies” we have living here and started the older two doing the dishes on alternating nights (we actually tried getting them to work together, but that caused too many arguments).  This was initially very painful(!) for me because I am a person who needs my kitchen to sparkle, with everything in its place before I go to bed and let’s face it…there’s no way an 11 and 12 year old will be able make it look like that, especially when they first start.  They’re kids – they don’t see the stuff on the floor, or the crumbs on the table, or that someone left the milk out.  It took me a long time to be able to relax after dinner while this “chore” was completed without me (I’ll admit I would sneak in after they were all asleep and fix what just wasn’t right…shhh!!).  At some point though, I began to take great pleasure in not having to get up after dinner every night and clean the kitchen and they actually stopped lamenting about having to do it in the first place – double bonus!  Not only that, they even started negotiating as to who would do them and when, depending who had activities various evenings through the week!

At some point after this very successful transition, I found myself sorting laundry  and getting increasingly frustrated at the amount of clean(!) clothing that had been thrown in the wash basket just because it was easier than putting it away.    In retrospect, I can be reasonable and completely see why this is normal…they’re kids.  Things like that just don’t register very high on their list of priorities and of course, they’re going to do whatever is easier.  At the time, though, getting the laundry done was becoming the very bane of my existence; something I just couldn’t put a dent in and seeing clean clothes added to the never-ending pile really made my head spin!  That’s when my hubby very wisely, took matters into his own hands and told me the older two were going to do their own laundry from now on.

Then came the guilt!  I couldn’t make them do their own laundry at just 11 and 12 years old…could I (I didn’t even start doing mine until I was in high school!)?  And even if I could, there was no possible way they’d be able to do it the “right ” way!  He pointed out how much stress and frustration would be eliminated if they were given the responsibility,  not to mention the fact that if the clean clothes were on the floor (or in the basket), it wouldn’t matter to me because I wouldn’t be taking the time to wash and fold them.  He also highlighted this would be a perfect lesson for me in “letting go” (oh how I hate it when he’s so logical!).  After very little arguing on their part, the torch was passed!  We showed them how to sort (emphasizing the golden rule of never putting reds with whites!), how much detergent to use and where to put it, and then I posted point-form instructions for the washer and dryer right on the wall.  I have to say, I was amazed at how easily they both made the transition!  Sure, there were days of hearing, “Mom!  I’m out of clean underwear!”…but it only happened a few times and I have to say, it felt good to respond with, “Better get your laundry done!”

Handing the kids those tasks accomplished two things…it went a long way in helping to alleviate my workload (and therefore, my stress level) and (more importantly) it gave them some responsibility in the running of our household.  You wouldn’t believe the comments we get when folks hear the older kids do their own laundry – people act like it’s a stroke of genius!  There are lots of things kids aren’t going to be able to do, but by giving them a few responsibilities they can take control of (and letting go of the control freak in you because, let’s face it, you just can’t do it all yourself and there’s no reason for you to have to!), leaves them with a sense of accomplishment.  You provide them with invaluable tools they’re going to need to survive when they don’t have you there to do it all for them.  It might take a lot of practice and “turning a blind eye” to how things look when they’re all done, but it’s all worth it – giving them a chance to feel this sense of accomplishment is very important to all kids.  It’s worked out perfectly in our house and let’s face it, in addition to love and support, what better thing can you do for your kids?!

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