children and chores

this post is transitional… i am running out of things i desperately wanted to tell you and show you about our trip, and starting to return back to regular life at home. still, quite a few new york photos made their way into this one, as my thoughts on chores have been percolating.

before, during and after the trip, quinn has seemed very keen on helping out with chores. children are such diligent workers, and i believe that is driven from within, naturally. i think kids are born with a built-in work ethic. i think we can do a lot to either promote or sabotage that as parents, and i have fewer answers than questions in this department, so i’m simply going to celebrate it for now and leave the theories to someone else. i will also celebrate the many wonderful examples set by quinn’s family members near and far, so he could see them working hard, as well as showing him how to do things that were genuinely helpful, and allowing him the satisfaction that comes from being able to contribute to the completion of the family workload.

Picture 1030 bonfire building

bonfire builders

Picture 1034 bonfire builders

cousinquinn and cousin luigi led the charge with  building the bonfire. they helped load up the wagon with old wood, rode with grampy to the bonfire site, and then unloaded it almost entirely on their own while the grownups assisted. the determined look on quinn’s face says it all.

Picture 292 dirtpile levelers

the boys got very serious about the business of leveling the pile of dirt in this old tub, once i let them know it was going to help grammy a great deal so she could plant flowers in it. then there was dirt that needed to be shoveled from that pile into a bucket for a friend: “can i do it? can i do it?” from everyone under five feet tall. playing in a dirt pile is fun, but purposeful work in a dirt pile? irresistible.

i know i often grumbled about the work required of me as a kid on the farm, but i also think it was one of my most important life lessons. and there were definitely chores i reveled in; i think i may have mentioned gardening once or twice, and cow midwifery. we had daily chores like milking cows, chasing cows in from the pasture, and feeding cows and calves, cats and dogs, and in the house, loading and unloading the dishwasher and helping with cleaning. then we had seasonal chores, like picking stones after the fields were plowed each spring, raking hay in the summer, peeling apples for mom’s freezer pie stash (she knew we’d all ask for pie for our birthdays) and shucking massive amounts of corn in the fall for the freezer, or spreading molasses on the hay and draining hoses to prevent freezing in winter.

IMG_1356 potato salad

IMG_1357 potato salad

IMG_1360 potato salad

Picture 1253 potato salad

quinn helped grammy make potato salad, and he stuck with it for the entire pile of potatoes. after some trial and error, they developed an efficient system of grammy peeling and making long skinny pieces that quinn would then slice with his butter knife. he also perfected the use of nana’s old egg slicer, and saw that whole process through as well. by the time we were eating dinner that night, everyone knew who had made the potato salad.

Picture 272

lately i get lots and lots of requests for “can i help?” at home in the kitchen. cheese grating, table setting, measuring and stirring ingredients, and even (though i wasn’t quite ready for it- he was!) carrying a pot of food over to the table with potholders. he asked rich and i quite a while ago that we include him when we ask for something to be passed at the table- meaning he wanted rich and i to not reach past him, but to pass things to him to then pass to the next person. it was something i had not even really been conscious of, but he was able to articulate so well his prosocial need to be included in this important part of the dinner process. he still sometimes needs to remind us, but i do make a more conscious effort now to ask him for the ketchup if it is in front of him instead of reaching for it myself.

Picture 1496 aunt carrie dishes

my sister in law (i have two awesome ones) got the kids all involved in washing dessert dishes one night on the trip, giving them each a scrub brush and ending up thoroughly soaking her own shirt in the process. since we have been home, quinn has actually mentioned washing dessert dishes as something he would like to help with more (and he sliced all the eggs for caesar salad the other day). i don’t know that i can make dish washing quite as fun as aunt c did, but that would be her elementary art teacher background coming into play.


just before the trip, i was cleaning out the inside of my car, and quinn joined in to help excavate the piles of driftwood, sticks, pinecones, and rocks he had been collecting in the backseat and remove them to his playhouse. when he got back, i had turned on the shop vac and was shocked to hear him ask eagerly, “can i do it?” shocked, because i am so used to him being opposed to loud sounds that i was surprised his eagerness to do this job outweighed his reluctance to be around the loud noise it necessitated. he vaguely nodded when i asked if he’d like the ear muffs, but was already well on his way to doing a much more thorough job than i had been. (not only was he more fastidious about it, he also fits a lot better under the steering wheel and in other tight spaces than i do!)


work is fun! (and so is sucking your lips into a shop vac!)

Picture 1048 wagon ride


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