Monday, February 4, 2013

What We Teach

My mother was not much of a housekeeper, not from lack of want to, but from a physical handicap coupled with guilt laden depression. The fair dose of guilt meant that she also did not manage to teach us much about how to keep house. She insisted we clean house, pushing the vacuum around before I was as tall as it, but she never really taught us.

My first "lessons" on how to clean house came from my grandmothers and aunts. One grandmother sat us beside her to dry the dinner dishes from the time our heads were as high as the counter. Both grandmothers made sure we cleaned up after ourselves at their houses, dusted sand off our shoes, knew how to set the table. And so it went- these sporadic life lessons from one extended family member after another.

The rest I taught myself through reading and trial and error. I have had spells of keeping an immaculate house, but I have also learned that clean must be balanced against life and health. There is a degree of clean that will ensure we're not compromising our health and a degree of tidiness that means I'll feel able to relax in our house. And that is good enough most days.

Because I got these lessons on housekeeping by hook and by crook, I make more very deliberate lessons for the children, trying hard to demand only what is appropriate for each at each age. And the things I see they have to be taught sometimes seem dumb, until I see an adult who obviously was never taught. Lessons like, "When you drop something mindlessly on the floor, it has to be picked up by SOMEONE, so you pick it up or you don't drop it."

When we teach our children to maintain their space, we're also socializing them to be responsible in the world at large.

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