The Summer of Chores

It’s not even 9:30am on the second day of the kids’ summer vacation, and they’re already fighting. It’s gonna be a looooonnnnnggggg summer.

Things started off just fine… At 9:00, everyone was dressed, had eaten breakfast, the laundry was started, the dishes had been washed, the sun was shining, and all three kids were playing so nicely together.

Brothers and Sister Playing Together in Perfect Harmony!

Paisley (9yo), Broder (23mo), and Liam (5yo) on the second day of summer vacation – perfectly content playing with the Matchbox cars together… for all of ten minutes.

I should’ve known it couldn’t last. Sigh…

The 9yo and 5yo had an elaborate Matchbox car racing game going on – which inevitably involved winning… which, therefore, inevitably involved losing. Specifically, the car racing game involved “only girl drivers” winning… And (inevitably) this was a problem for the 5yo, Liam, being a BOY. Having already had enough coffee that I thought I could handle this little spat, I reminded the kids (or rather, reminded the older kids – the 23mo toddler was perfectly content crashing cars into one another and throwing them to the floor) about one of the longest-standing rules of the house: everyone must be okay with the game that’s being played, or the game has to change.

I had to remind them of this rule several times. (Did I already sigh?)

Eventually, Paisley let “a boy driver” win the “Championship round,” (hear the crowd roar with approval!) but then quickly resumed the “only girl drivers” winning game (hear the crowd go silent with apprehension…). Apparently winning the championship just wasn’t enough for Liam (perhaps because there was no silver trophy and glass of milk handed to him by a wildly enthusiastic pit crew?), and he dissolved into a puddle of tears.

By 9:15am, I’d had enough of the bickering and tantrums. Game. Over. The cars were done and needed to be put away. Confronted with their cries of despair and despondency, I (still rather calmly at this time) explained that if someone isn’t okay with the game, and they can’t compromise or come up with a solution, then they had to find a new game.

But did they go find a new game to play? Did they go find some activity to do that didn’t involve winning or losing? Of course not! They ran around the house, taking turns chasing each other, blaming the other for ruining the game, not compromising, and generally ruining the other person’s life FOREVER!!

Apparently we have no other toys or games in this house. At least, no other toy or game that could possibly compete against how fun (??) it was to fight with each other.

Because that’s all they wanted to do: fight with each other. Have I mentioned that it’s not even 9:30am? On the second day of summer vacation??

As the kids continued ranting and raving at each other, I stared longingly at my now empty coffee pot. I gave Broder a quick snuggle (he was totally unfazed by the mayhem), and put him back down so he could continue bashing the toy cars to pieces. I scrubbed the last pot sitting in the sink. I wiped down the now-clear kitchen table. And sent mental messages to my children to stop Stop STOP!

Turns out they’re not mind-readers (which is so lame), so I finally had to intervene. And remind them of the little discussion we’d had yesterday morning. When they were arguing over – What? What were they arguing over? Oh yeah…

Yesterday morning, Paisley slept in, and then finished knitting a purse she was making up in her bedroom. Liam was downstairs building a Lego dragonheaded airplane (and really, the airlines totally need to jump on that idea: flying would be so much better on planes that had dragonheads instead of cockpits), and I thought it was safe to put the toddler down for his nap. Bahahahaha! How many years have I been a parent??

No, just as the baby was falling asleep, I hear Liam creeping upstairs and sneaking into the room he shares with Paisley. Who just wants quiet time. But it’s Liam’s room, too. And so it goes, quickly spiraling into a door-slamming contest (!!). Which, of course, wakes up the baby (!!).

Devil horns sprouted out of my head, fire flashed from my eyes, and in my best demon-voice I reminded my (perfectly precious) children about one of the newest rules in the house: fighting tells me you are bored, and if you’re bored, I have something better for you to do with your time: chores; you may either choose to play nicely or you may choose to clean – it’s your choice – but if you fight, the rule is, you do chores.

The fire in my eyes now a dim glow, and my demon-voice a quiet whisper, I let them know that this was their one and only warning for THE ENTIRE SUMMER. I wasn’t going to remind them AGAIN. If they fought, it was their choice, and I’d simply hand them a wet washcloth for scrubbing. Did they understand? Paisley? She resentfully nods. Liam? He hang-doggedly grumbles yes. Good.

And I walked out the door to return to the now howling toddler who just wanted his nap.

Which he eventually took. And there was no fighting for the rest of the day. I had such high hopes that it would last…

But here we are again… the kids fighting. Not interested in playing a game both are okay with… Not listening to my sage wisdom to compromise… Clearly bored. So I did what I told them I’d do: I boldly stepped in front of my two screaming banshees (who were still chasing after each other), and handed each of them a wet washcloth.

The trim along my stairs is now dust-free and clean, courtesy of the 9yo. The baseboards leading to my side door are now devoid of the muddy paw prints made by the dogs, courtesy of the 5yo.

Liam Doing Chores

The 5yo cleaning the baseboards of the hallway. They look really good, by the way…

Hmm… Not bad…

You know… maybe they’ll figure out pretty quickly that fighting just isn’t worth it, and that maybe – just maybe – they should choose to play nicely instead of doing chores. Or, maybe – just maybe – it’s truly gonna be a looooonnnnnggggg summer of fighting. But, then, at least I’ll have a clean house…

Huh. So, really, either way, it’s win-win for me? Wow. This just might be the best summer EVER…

Well, then! To that I say: bring on the summer, and the looooonnnnnggggger, the better!!

7 thoughts on “The Summer of Chores

  1. Phew – is it wine time in Seattle yet? I’m totally going to use this idea. I usually make them go pick seperate activities and threaten them with the cardboar box that is just waiting to get filled with toys for me to toss. Cleaning…you’re a genious!

    • And to top it all off, the toddler woke up from his nap with a fever; so much for letting the big kids run out their crazy energy at the zoo this afternoon… T-minus three hours and eighteen minutes ’til wine time! But who’s counting?? 😉

  2. I love that solution! Creative!!
    I think my kids are still young enough that cleaning would be fun for them. Perhaps I’ll give them damp washcloths tomorrow for fun…

    Could you do a post on your kids’ age gaps? I’m nosy and that’d be fun for me. My girls are two years apart – almost exactly – and if there were to be a baby number three then there would be a larger age gap. So, yeah, I’m nosey.

    • Yes, the kids do sometimes like the cleaning – which is great, as long as it keeps them from fighting (and waking the baby!).

      Thanks for the idea about the age gap; I’ll keep that in mind as I watch the kiddos, and see what comes up… The short answer to “why” they’re about 4 years apart, though, is that that’s just how the cards were dealt. 🙂 I’m thinking about writing a book (essays similar to the blog) based on the (or rather, MY) “process of becoming a mama” and the age difference would definitely be something I’d need to address there. So again, thanks!

      • Hey, I’m always glad to be nosey. I mean helpful. Well, I probably meant nosey but I’m glad it helped. 😀 Two years is how the cards were dealt for me too, but if there was a plan for a third one we would need more time to prepare! Hahaha!

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