Last week, I had a phone interview with Tracy at Real Simple Magazine who is putting together an article on kids and entitlement for their December issue.
I so enjoy getting to meet new people and talk about life – even when over the phone. And, it’s been crazy the amount of new folks whose paths I’ve crossed due to Cleaning House. Sometimes the venue can be a bit heady, like Real Simple. I would be lying to say that I wasn’t a teensy bit excited and in slight disbelief when I received her inquiry. But, regardless the outlet, we’re all just people. Tracy, like me, is a mom who loves her kids. All the readers, or viewers or listeners, are people who either care about the kids they’re raising or about the societal environment in which we all live.
People. Who matter. Who have purpose. Who belong. … People- much of the reason we so desperately search to find and race after “the answer” for life to go well with us and those we dearly love.
So as Tracy & I chatted, we discussed issues, we talked strategy, … then she asked me, “So, how has your experiment to get entitlement out of your house changed your home?”
I knew it was coming, because that question always does. It’s the question that tempts me to think there actually exists a quick fix solution. Yes – if I get rid of that entitlement mentality, THEN we’re good to go, we’ve succeeded.
As if there’s an answer.
And as she asked it, my mind raced to even that morning when I woke to find a cereal bowl from the night before in the kitchen sink. It was a bowl that a late night kid had dutifully put in the sink – because technically speaking, he did clean up after himself. But it was in the sink. Less than 18 inches from the dishwasher. And in the bowl were Rice Krispie remnants, stuck like glue since the bowl had been only minimally rinsed.
And as I looked at that bowl, I got frustrated, maybe a little angry. And I went down the mental road of wondering, sure you (kid) did the job, but how hard would it have been to do it right? Rinsed the bowl. Put it in the dishwasher. Thought about the person coming behind you that will have to finish the task. And I grumbled, leaning into the temptation to make my job as a mother about the tasks. Which is nothing more than a HUGE waste of time.
So, when Tracy asked that question, It took some effort to pry my thoughts from our home’s inadequacies to find examples of how it actually has changed. Because I know it has, but that bowl didn’t offer much proof. I began my answer with the truth, “We’re just a regular house like everyone else,” then I proceeded to share specifics of so much good mixed in with reality.
But, little did I know that the rest of my day would be living out loud the answer to her question. Because in the midst, I sometimes forget to see.
The day happened to be Barton’s birthday. And true to my Go-to-Girl’s M.O., she did everything herself. She wanted to. She had actually been trained to. (See also: Task 8 “The Entertainers: Party Planning and Hospitality … and 1 Down, 3 to Go)
She baked her own cake (pictured above) from a scratch recipe she wrote after she cleaned the entire kitchen. She came up with her guest list, her theme, her activity – all with her friends and each of their unique personalities in mind. Leading up to her day, I kept asking what she would like to do, “Movie? Dinner? Archery?…” Only to her response,”Mom, I’ve got it covered.”
Which she did. At one point, when we were headed out the door to gather the rest of the makings for her party, including parting gifts, she stopped and turned back. “Wait,” she told me, “I have to grab my wallet.”
“What do you need your wallet for?” I asked.
“So I can buy party favors,” she matter-of-factly responded.
“Sweetheart, I’ll pay for those.” It’s in moments like those that I wonder if I’ve gone too far. But, of course I remember the cereal bowl and assure myself it’s okay.
For her party, Barton put together a scavenger hunt in the mall. She came up with a list of things each “team” had to find or do and capture in pics on their phones. She calculated the time it would take, coordinated drop-offs and pick-ups all of which included plenty of time for just plain chatting – a teenage girl’s favorite past-time.
And, despite my ridiculous urges to step in and do it for her (yes, more than once she had to tell me to stop), she did it all and it came off without a hitch pretty much for free.
Later that evening, after everyone had gone, I told Barton about my interview. “You know, one of the questions asked centered on how things have changed. … I had to think about it and wondered a little if we have changed.” And I looked at her, “Too bad my interview wasn’t tomorrow. I could have told her all about you. How you did all of this – yourself. … What can I say… you’re amazing.”
She loved her friends so well. She tested and rested in her abilities, sought help when she needed and basked in all the goodness. And I was reminded why letting/forcing your kids to test their wings is worth it. Because among other things,
- Kids can do more than they or we think they can
- They want to do it. (More than one of the party goers said, “I’m doing this for my birthday!!”)
- It provides hands-on, natural/not forced other-centeredness
At the end of the day… it’s about love. And about people. Am I loving my kids well – even when loving looks like making them load the dishwasher again, and again, and again. Even when loving my kids looks like a reminder that their sister likes her clothes put away in “these” drawers. Especially when loving my kids reminds them that people are on the other side of each and every task they encounter – people who need to be loved and accepted as much as they do.
Because if we can get to the people side, the task takes a back seat where it belongs.
Thanks for asking the question, Tracy … sometimes in the moment I forget to look up and see. And, thanks for walking the road with me.