Thursday, March 14, 2013

They Turned Out All Right

Grandma’sBriefs.comYou may have noticed in my sidebar that on Tuesdays I sometimes participate in a blog hop hosted by my friend Lisa at Grandma's Briefs. It's called the Grand Social. It's an excellent opportunity to meet other grandparent bloggers. I've met some nice people and found some really interesting blogs to read and share.

This week, one of the participants, Around the Table, linked up a post titled Tell Me Again, Why Do We Make Them Do Chores? It's a really great article about the importance of teaching responsibility at an early age and how what you teach them today is what they become tomorrow. You should click the link above and read it. I'll wait.

Welcome back. I told you it was a good article. When I read it, it made me remember what it was like when we were raising our kids. In fact, it inspired this post.

We did a lot of things that might not have been wrong, but were probably not optimal. We both worked full time. Our kids were day care kids until they started kindergarten; then they went to after-school programs until they were in fourth grade. After that, they were latchkey kids.

Looking back, I can't believe how busy we were. Most of the time, we hardly did chores ourselves. How could we have expected the kids to do chores?

Our house was always a wreck. Cleaning the house just wasn't our priority. Many evenings dinner was sandwiches or frozen lasagna that we could just pop in the oven. Dinner was almost always late, after the kids went to their after school activities like CCD (religious eduction), scouting, or ball practice. When we got home, the kids did their homework at the dining room table while one of us made dinner. While they did their homework they got a quick, healthy snack, usually carrots or celery with ranch dip or cheese and crackers.

The kids didn't have to do many chores. There just wasn't time on week nights. On Saturdays they had to clean their own rooms. Every night before bed they had to pick up their stuff from around the house. Honestly, that was mostly an effort to avoid panic in the mornings when we were trying to get out the door. Everyone had to put their own plate in the dishwasher every night and, if you had a guest, you had to put the guest's plate in the dishwasher. That was pretty much all they had to do when they were little.

There were two issues that were difficult for us as a family. I think the way we dealt with them as the kids grew up was interesting. I've never run across anyone who handled them the same way we did.

The first was laundry. There was always a mountain of laundry and the kids were always wanting us to wash only one or two items of clothing so they could wear them the next day.

When Nick was in 4th grade and Katy was in 7th, I stopped washing their clothes. I taught them to use the washer and dryer. Then I put each one of them in charge of their own laundry. I did all the other laundry and left them to do their own. It mostly worked, too. There were a few instances where white underwear was turned pink, but not many. There were times when they didn't do their laundry and they had to wear dirty practice uniforms. That was tough, but I did not back down. Katy got the hang of it a lot faster than Nick did. Nick actually went a couple of years in high school when he thought Febreeze would replace washing his clothes and, yes, I left it up to him. Thank God his high school girlfriend set him straight on that. When they went away to college, they already knew how to do laundry and were used to doing it. Their roommates had to learn once they got there.

The other more irritating issue was getting everyone where they needed to be on time every morning. Let me start by saying right up front that I am not a morning person. I can just barely function enough to get myself dressed and to work on time. But because of our schedules, I was almost always the one who took them to school. They had to be at school at 8 a.m. I had to be at work at 8:30 and the drive from their school to my office was at least half an hour. I needed them up and dressed and out the door on time. They simply did not get it. I fought the battle for several years. We would start trying to get them out of bed at 6:30. We would try again in five minute increments until they finally got up at the last possible minute. I would be so frustrated by the time I got to work, not only was I late, but my day was off to a lousy start.

Then, when Nick was in 6th grade and Katy was in 9th, I had an epiphany. I put them in charge of getting themselves up. I bought each of them an alarm clock taught them how to use them. I explained that, starting the next morning, they would be responsible for getting out of bed and dressed. I would be leaving at 7:40 a.m. If they were up, dressed, and in the car, I would take them to school. If not, they would need to get a ride or they would be staying home. I also explained to them that I would not be writing an excuse if they missed school.

The next day they were both up and ready. That lasted for a few days. Then one morning Nick didn't get up. True to my word, I took Katy to school and left Nick in bed. That lasted two days. On the third day, he got up and went to school without a note to get his absences excused. He got zeroes on all the work he had missed. I rarely had trouble with him getting out of bed after that.

As teenagers, when they were home all day in the summertime, they had a list of chores that had to be completed each day. They tell us now that they would wait until the last half hour then rush around competing their assigned tasks.

They didn't get much spending money. We never gave them an allowance. If we could afford it and their chores were done, we would pay for them to go to the movies, the bowling alley, or the skating rink every now and then. We took care of what they needed, not what they wanted. I think too much spending money opens the doors to a lot of potential problems.

We did most things as a family. We sat down at the dining room table every night for dinner, even if it was sandwiches. No one was allowed to eat in their room or in the living room. The exceptions were Friday nights. We always did something special on Friday nights. We had season tickets to our high school football games or we would go to high school basketball games. Otherwise we would stay home and have a picnic on the living room floor while we watched a rented movie. Both of the kids remember those picnics fondly and have continued them with their spouses and children. We also spent a lot of evenings playing board games or card games with another couple who had kids about the same age as ours.

We went to church as a family every Sunday morning.We were not flexible on this. Everyone was up, dressed in their Sunday best, and sitting in the pew when mass started. After the kids were about three years old, we did not sit in the cry room. We sat near the front of the church so they could see what was going on and feel part of the worship. They were expected to behave themselves in church. They were not allowed to lay down in the pew or amuse themselves with toys or crayons. From a very young age they were expected to go through the motions of the mass, standing, kneeling, and sitting at the appropriate times. If they misbehaved, they were taken outside until they understood what was expected. Then they were returned to the pew.

Time with the grandparents and cousins almost every weekend was important to us.
Every weekend we spent either Saturday or Sunday evening with one or the other of our parents. We didn't just drop the kids off. We spent time as a family with their grandparents. The kids played outside with their cousins while the adults made dinner together. They often fell asleep on the floor at their grandparents house while we played cards or dominoes late into the night. We would then pick them up, put them in the car, drive home, and tuck them into bed still fully clothed. Both of the kids will tell you how wonderful these evenings were. Katy wants us to move closer so they can do the same with us.

I think these are the main things that kept our kids out of trouble and why they're successful adults. To state it briefly, we made them responsible, but not independent before they were ready for independence. They turned out all right!


  1. I love this post, Vicki. Not only did the kids turn out all right, you and your husband did all right, as in all correctly. This post should be a primer for all parents of young kids and/or teens. Much wisdom here. Kudos to you and your hubby for a job well done!

  2. I'm so glad I inspired you! Thank you for providing a link. I'm happy that in spite of what I didn't understand, my children have learned responsibility. And I'm thankful I can help others along the way! Great post!

  3. Vicki, this is perfect! You did an amazing job and obviously a lot of thought went into what you were doing as parents. I wish I had lived close to my grandparents and cousins but we moved away when I was 10. SO glad the kids are only 1 mile away!

  4. Vicki, Oh girl...I couldn't agree anymore with this post!! Every darn last word of it☺ This is how we raised our kids and praying my children will too!

  5. What a lovely description of common sense parenting in middle America that produced loving, productive children! It puts things into perspective. There's no need to frantically pursue the latest gadgets in parenting - success is as close as the balance you've described here. And I guess I'm a fan of this method because we used it too! We were also light on chores because things like after school sports and homework - and CCD! - were considered "jobs" that took priority. I too am glad we did things that way!

  6. Vicki, We also had dinner together as a family every night. Now, there are studies saying how important this ritual is. I love how you started making your children responsible for their own lives.