I’m ending that soft life for my kids. It’s time for work

OPINION: A recent plumbing issue in my home has me re-evaluating the amount of chores and work my kids do inside my home. 

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Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.

I don’t remember the first time my father had me doing real manual labor. I do remember that as a kid, and definitely before 10 years old, I mowed the grass in our backyard. Chores? We definitely had chores in my house, and I grew up in a house where the dishwasher was just a dry rack, not to be used to actually, ya know, wash dishes. I can excitedly report that as a fully functional adult that I use the bejesus out of my dishwasher these days and do not force my children into the same servitude that my parents did regarding dishwashing. And since using the appliance saves both energy and water, I now like to think of myself as an environmentalist.

Anywho, I recently thought about the amount of chores and labor my parents had me doing as a tyke because apparently my children live the softest of soft lives. At this point, they are required to clean up the playroom they make a mess of daily and help me put trash in trash bags for the weekly pickup. But really, that’s it. My kids chill – hard. They chill so hard that I rarely even think to put them to work carrying things into (or out of) the house or putting groceries away; my kids do almost none of the things I did instinctually as a kid because my parents made sure I was there to help. 

Why did I think about this? I’m glad you asked.

Last week, we discovered a leak in my house and had a plumber come out to fix it, and that led to the discovery of some water damage which led to my family having to move out of our home for a while. As part of the prepping for parts of my home to be deconstructed, I had to move a tremendous amount of shoes (in shoe boxes) from one floor of my house to another. We’re talking almost two hundred pairs of shoes, by the way. 

I looked at this mountain of shoe boxes and became mentally exhausted. I started actually moving them – 5 to 6 boxes at a time – and then became physically exhausted, having to take breaks every so often. After I’d moved about 50 pairs of shoes, I laid on my bed for a few minutes – questioning life and why I bought so many pairs of shoes – and then had an epiphany. I have two boys ages 8 and 7. Why in the world am I moving ANY of these boxes myself? I promptly called my boys and had these little worker bees moving boxes two to three at a time. 

Not only did they do it in record time, they RACED each other to see who could move the most boxes the fastest. And then my 3-year-old got in on the action because he saw his big brothers moving boxes and wanted to help. So he’d chip in with one box at a time. I went from doing ALL of the work to supervising, and I can’t believe it didn’t dawn on me earlier to do this. In the same time I moved 50 boxes, my kids moved the remaining roughly 150 shoes, with me looking on thinking about the fact that if I was more of an influencer I’d just turned my kids into content. I’m not, so I didn’t; but to say I was proud of my ingenuity would be an understatement. 

Really, though, it just made me realize how long it took me to think about having my kids help. It was only when I’d gotten to the point of feeling doomed by the job that I considered other options. As a kid, my parents would have COLLECTIVELY decided at the outset that I was doing all of the work and would have told me to smile about it. I don’t know if because of how much my parents required me to do that my instinct is just to do it all myself, or I’ve just gone soft on my kids and don’t want them to do it all. But it has made me think that I need to make my kids do more stuff in the house. They definitely need to be helping me and their mother put away groceries, and they need to help carry things into the house. And do more cleaning. Basically, I’ve given my kids the soft life and while I want that for them, I only want that to a degree. They need to be out here getting to the chores. Plus, it builds character…or something. 

Either way, mostly I’m just excited about this parenting win that saved my back and my legs from going up and down stairs when my kids didn’t seem to mind at all. That is what parenting is all about. 

Panama Jackson theGrio.com

Panama Jackson is a columnist at theGrio. He writes very Black things, drinks very brown liquors, and is pretty fly for a light guy. His biggest accomplishment to date coincides with his Blackest accomplishment to date in that he received a phone call from Oprah Winfrey after she read one of his pieces (biggest), but he didn’t answer the phone because the caller ID said: “Unknown” (Blackest).

Make sure you check out the Dear Culture podcast every Thursday on theGrio’s Black Podcast Network, where I’ll be hosting some of the Blackest conversations known to humankind. You might not leave the convo with an afro, but you’ll definitely be looking for your Afro Sheen! Listen to Dear Culture on TheGrio’s app; download it here.