My friend, Alaithia Humphrey posted this as her facebook status, and it got me thinking:
“so I totally forgot I had to bring a snack for Ethan for school tomorrow. So I will be making cupcakes til one in the morning. Fun fun:)”
Many Moms have been here! We’re exhausted, we have a ton of things to do on a daily basis. Get lunches, get everybody out the door, do our jobs at work, keep track of everything there, get home, keep house clean, feed everybody, house is messy again, exhaustion hits and time for be… OH CRAP! THE CUPCAKES!
Go back downstairs, dig out the pans, and its go time. No sleep for the weary…
Why are we like this? We have a lot to manage! Its rough, I’m tired, and I forget things, because I have too much to do. Sound familiar? We don’t have to do it alone! For starters, even kids can help around the house. I know Dads can (and should!) help too (I promptly did a jig in my kitchen just this morning, because I found my husband had done the dishes!) But why should our kids help? Cleaning up their own mess, and contributing to family life teaches teamwork, and responsibility. This is truly making the most of your time with your kids, You are teaching them, working with them, and loving them in a unique way. Not to mention, having a 5 year old who can mix a batch of cupcakes singlehandedly is a fun thing to brag about! There so are many ways that kids can help:
Tell the kids when something is coming up they are involved in at school and should cook/bake for. Involve them in the decision making process of what to make. Its a great learning experience, and an opportunity to exhibit responsibility. They can help get out and mix ingredients, decorate, return the ingredients and clean up the mess. The first few times will be tough. It seems like more work to start, but it saves everybody in the long run. Safety is also very important! At the start, always make sure young children know their boundaries when in the kitchen. Mine are not allowed to even touch the stove. Children can also help with regular household tasks. Even a 1 1/2 year old is old enough to begin to help clean up toys. They won’t do it perfectly, but at this age, that is not the point.
Here is a list of some ways to establish good habits. Take it slow for starters, and after you’ve established specific tasks, introduce more complex tasks.
1. Don’t get it all out! Let them do some of it! (Emma gets ingredients out of the fridge)
2. Pick up as you go. Your children can place some things where directed (Sarah returns all finished items to the pantry for me)
For both ideas, you can also give children a specific domain, obviously Sarah has the Pantry, Emma, the Fridge, and they can do all the reasonable fetch and carry.
3. Give THEM the towel! Let them wipe up their messes, and encourage good handwashing.
4. Let them have ownership in the kitchen too, this will increase pride in good work. Sarah helps unload the dishwasher (I go through it first and remove all sharp objects) and she puts the silverware away. Emma puts everything in the bottom cabinets (tupperware) away. Both girls assist in wiping cabinets, tables, chairs and sweeping the floor.
5. Our golden rule is, if you make a mess, clean it up! (applies to everyone!) Let them clean up their own toy messes, food messes, ANY messes! Be consistent!! Don’t ever clean up after them. If they say “I can’t do it by myself!” Chances are the size of the task overwhelms them. “Help” them by breaking it up into parts for them. Maybe by identifying types of items to clean up at a shot. I tell Sarah, “Find all the stuffed animals, put them here” and Emma “Put all the trash into this can.” They are also responsible for their own laundry placement. They put it in the laundry bin when it is dirty, and after it is washed and folded, they put it away.
6. Keep a community piggy bank. If it is broken, and needs to be replaced, messed and it needs to be cleaned professionally, money from this fund will help pay for the mess. My children hate the thought of the piggybank being dipped into to replace a lost game, or broken toy. They are more responsible with their things because of it. What is left over can be deposited into their student bank accounts later.
7. Last but not least, the dreaded trash bag. If my children fail to help clean up their messes, I reserve the right to use the trash bag. Usually the threat is enough to have them clean the whole house spotless right then and there. Once, I had to use it, little do my kids know I hid it in the attic and replaced the toys later. They never noticed, but I got my point across!
I know this all sounds really hard hearted, but if we don’t teach our children to be responsible, who will? We need to teach them patiently, lovingly, and consistently. No one else will support them like we can. No one else can teach them like we can. When they succeed, who else will praise them like we will? There is something wonderful in a life lesson with Mom or Dad.
One day, I heard Sarah exclaim, “We did it!! We cleaned the kitchen! Oh Mom! Its beautiful!” Hearing the excitement, seeing the smile, knowing she was proud of her own hard work was the best reward ever. It is well worth every difficult moment, extra clean up, and tantrums to reach the day when your child is excited they accomplished something worthwhile through good old fashioned hard work! I am so proud of my children!
If all else fails, and everybody simply forgot the cupcakes/cookies etc, here is a recipe that will save you in a pinch (inexpensively, I might add.)
Chocolate Chip Cookies
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup quick oats
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 sticks (1 cup) butter, softened
3/4 (packed) light brown sugar
3/4 granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 pack semi sweet chocolate chips
yield: 4 dozen(ish)
1. Combine dry ingredients in one bowl. In another bowl, cream butter and sugars, beat in eggs and vanilla. beat in flour mixture, then stir in chocolate chips.
2. turn half of the dough out onto a sheet of wax paper, shape a log 2 inches in diameter. Roll up the log into the wax paper, twist ends closed. Repeat with the remaining dough. Chill until firm. This can be refridgerated for one week, or frozen for 6 months in an airtight plastic bag.
3. to bake: preheat oven to 300 F. If using frozen, give it some time to soften a bit. Cut the log into 1/2 inch slices. Arrange on ungreased cookie sheet about 2 inches apart. bake for 22-24 minutes, or until set. (a little trick, I always bake for 21 minutes, they are softer, and more moist.)