24 September 2012

Chore Sticks and The Thankfulness Project

I have read with amusement the Facebook statuses of many of my friends as the September school holidays started, saying how relieved they were that they didn't "have to make school lunches for two whole weeks!"  I wonder when realisation will dawn that putting a sandwich, a banana, a muesli bar and a cookie in a bag is actually easier than scheduling enough interesting activities into each day for a diversity of ages or suffering the consequences, namely dealing with the bickering and complaining that will follow if too many minutes are left to idleness or rubbish TV.

It is good to have one's little chickens around for a few solid weeks after a long school term, but when the chickens can easily devolve into time-wasting, fighting and driving their mother mad, the responsibility not to write off the fortnight as a total Waste Of Days is a heavy one.  I was concerned when I noticed two attitudes in one of my little darlings the week before holidays:

  • quite happy to do the chores he/she wanted to do, but when asked to do a specific chore retorted, "No." Yes, you heard right: the child said "No." Unbelievable.
  • extremely unthankful for the blessings we have, e.g., food, family, education, pretty cushy existence, etc.

Terrifying.  I'm not really scared of many things, but raising kids who are 'lost' to common decency just terrifies the pants off me.  And public nakedness is one of those rare things that does really scare me, so it's a bit of a double whammy.

What if the little babies I once was so close to grow up to take everything for granted, scorn their education, complain about life in Australia, don't eat good food, don't keep in touch with their parents, and treat people less fortunate with contempt?  I'm sweating with horror just thinking about it - I love them to pieces, and it would rip me apart to see them go that way.  Maybe they are still too little for me to acknowledge they have free will, but I think I'll probably always want the best for them no matter how old they get.

So approaching this holiday turned into something of an existential terror regarding their spiritual futures.  No wonder packing a lunchbox started looking easier.

Hoping I was up to the task of guiding them to adulthood with something of a moral compass, and believing that small steps is what it will take, I decided to do two things in the first week of these holidays that might in some small way do some good.  Don't laugh at me - I'm doing my best.

1. Chore Sticks.  I've seen this idea on the net somewhere, and it's really just a colourful way to make children think that chores might be fun to do.  So far, it's worked.  I wrote some easy chores onto coloured paddle-pop sticks (popsicle sticks) and stuck a pom-pom on the end.  Children pick a stick and do the chore.  Make no mistake, this would NOT work if the sticks or pom poms were not brightly coloured, and if I wrote the chores onto white paper, my children's moral development would be all but lost.  It's the glitzy colourful crafty look of the chore sticks that holds ALL the appeal.  And I mean ALL.  We are that shallow.

2.  The Thankfulness Project.  Maybe Aussie kids become a bit unthankful for the blessings we have in Australia simply because they haven't heard the reality of the living conditions of people in the third world or the persecuted church?  I'm giving this a go: before a meal, I'm reading a short story of the hardships faced in the third world and thinking about what we're thankful for here in Australia.

Today it was "Sophie's story" that came on a flyer inside the Koorong catalogue.  We read about children who, like Sophie, don't have enough to eat and therefore go looking for bugs to eat.  We talked about how it would be yucky for us, but it would be a meal for them.  We talked about how we were thankful for the food we have readily available, and we thanked God for it.  Then they ate it!  I was going to leave the lesson there but Buzz read on the flyer that this organisation can provide 100 meals for just $6, so they each pledged $6 from their 'Pig Boxes' on the spot.

The whole Thankfulness Project sounds weirdly strict for school holidays, but I'm just trying to bring some global perspective into "This food tastes like nothing" and "School is so boring" and "I wish I didn't have to put up with [sibling]."  Because knowing what a lot of other people have to go without, those words hurt my heart.

And for balance, I'm planning to run myself ragged doing fun things too, with baby Rex strapped onto my front in his pouch.  This morning, Crazy Sister called and said that she and her family, and our Mum, Dad and Wee Bro were going bowling.  We dropped everything and joined them!  Jessie and Woody came first and second with their bumpers and bowling ramp, Buzz came third with just the bumpers and I came horribly last with no bowling aids and a baby who threatened to fall out of the pouch just as I hurled the ball, causing me to save the baby and lose the points every time.
It's fun, it's time-consuming and it's really hard.  One day soon I'll be embracing making school lunches, and I might not be the only one!


Tracy P. said...

I LOVE this! I love that you shared it! We have experienced much of that same loss of gratitude and willingness over the years. Sometimes I chide myself for not making chores more fun when the kids were little and for allowing them to be too spoiled. "It's fun, it's time-consuming, and it's really hard." That just sums up parenting, doesn't it? I think in many cases it takes God prompting them to use the compassion he has given them--it takes me by surprise! But we as parents decide daily whether to be a part of the problem or a part of the solution. Way to be proactive and give opportunity for cooperation and compassion to shine.

Heather said...

I would love more info on the Thankfulness Project - that is something I'd love to incorporate into our home and my Girl Scout troop!

Sue Ellen said...

I think I need some chore sticks of my own. I DEFINITELY need some thankfulness...

Hippomanic Jen said...

Love the chore sticks.

So it would be bad to add some chores for your kids to be done at Mrs Jen's house?

Have I missed the point?

Selena said...

Great post. Thanks for sharing 'real life'.
I know of a family who have a rice night, where they just eat rice for dinner once a week to help the appreciate what we do have. Personally i think that may just be a tad extreme, but I do like the idea of 'thanks time' - where we each take a turn during dinner to share what we are thankful for today.
How well do the children go with folding??

Crazy Sister said...

Do they yell and yell every second of the chore that they NEED HELP?