One of the first things Michelle Obama did when she met the White House domestic staff was instruct them not to make her children’s beds. She wants to make sure they learn that kind of responsibility for themselves. When I read that, my heart went out to the first parents.
As a mom who is usually just a bit stricter than my peer-moms, I feel for the Obamas, striving to make sure their kids don’t learn to take the privileges of the White House for granted, as they grow through their tweens and into their early teens in that most rarified of homes. I have a hard time when kind waitresses offer my kids a free cookie or tell them (instead of me) what their drink options are, including more than “milk” or “water” (which are their drink options at home). I can’t imagine the temptation of sneaking treats to the adorable Obama girls, or of spoiling them–just a little–by picking up their clothes off the floor before Grandma sees them and they get in trouble.
One thing the Obamas plan to do is to hold their kids accountable to the responsibilities they had to manage at home in Chicago:
“In the Obama White House, bedtime is still at 8 p.m. The girls still set their own alarm clocks and get themselves up for school in the morning. They make their own beds and clean their own rooms. And when the much-anticipated pet arrives, they will walk the dog and scoop its poop.”
These basic guidelines seem just perfect for girls aged seven and ten. Our family is waiting to get a pet until our girls are old enough to take on the bulk of responsibility for its care, too. My girls, at 4 and almost 2, do the bulk of “cleaning up” (putting away toys) in their own rooms, with just a little supervision to help them stay on task. We’re working on the “put away the first thing before taking out the next thing” rule, but it’s tough to enforce. They both love to “help” with laundry (putting things in and out of the washer and dryer) but their help doubles the length of time it takes, so I only let them help once in a while.
What are the responsibilities of the children in your home? Or, if yours are truly too little to help, what are our plans when it comes to teaching your kids self-care and responsibility for maintaining personal and shared space?