One morning my husband wanted to go out for breakfast and I remember telling him that I had a lot of chores to finish up and couldn't. I remember this puzzling look on his face and knew a comment would soon follow. What chores? Why do you have so much to do? You need me to help with something? Why isn't Z helping you? "It's not her job to keep up with the house, it's mine. Her job right now is to be a kid and to enjoy it. I want her to enjoy her childhood." "So teaching her responsibility and life skills will somehow equate to a horrible childhood?" "You just don't get it." "You don't get it DJ. Look you do a great job with her, but you're failing her in a lot of ways that your mother didn't fail you. The method may have been painful and I'm not saying it wasn't, but the lessons were important. We don't know what tomorrow holds. Either of us could die tomorrow. Something could happen and we could go our separate ways. If there was ever an occasion where Z needed someone besides us in her life to help care for her, wouldn't you want her to be able to do as much for herself as possible? You really want someone else teaching her basic life skills and how to cook and clean."
As he walked out of the door for a breakfast run and I to the back room I could feel the tears coming. I never looked at it that way. I thought I was protecting her from my hardships. Protecting her from my pain, but in actuality I was raising her to fail. I was raising a princess and failed to realize that what made my crown so strong was because of all the talents and skills I have. I was a beast at so much in life because my mom taught me to be. There'd been times where I tapped into those talents to create another stream of income to support our family. I've been looking at this all wrong. Those lessons weren't meant to be scars. My mom was simply sharing with me the only trade she knew that contributed to her raising her 9 kids. Why did I look at it so negatively? Why didn't I embrace it? If it were painful for me, why didn't I ever think about how painful it was for her for over 50 years.
See while my mom cooked for food sales it was always my responsibility to cook for the house and prep for her day. I was sort of the sous chef in the background making sure everything was set up and ready to go. When school was out my day started at about 6am and ended at about 10pm. Filled with chores throughout the day, I looked at it as a form of abuse and something I would never do to my child. Over the years my mom patiently showed me her craft. With each recipe, she did it several times in front of me. Then she walked me through it. Then the final lesson was for me to do it alone. If I didn't get it right, the wet kitchen rag was ready to pop me to make sure I focused and got it right. I became a fast learner, a master at her craft. When she would take her month-long visits to Haiti to see my siblings, I would run her business. My dad helped and together we put out plates and sold food in her absence to keep the bills paid. If my dad and I didn't make enough while she was away, we'd have to decide which bill to pay, meaning something else would be turned off. Saturdays would start at 6am with me dusting and cleaning the living room. Followed by a trip to the laundromat where I'd be responsible for doing a week’s load of laundry for a family of 7. When I was done with that, I'd call to be picked up and head home where I'd join my mom in the kitchen to prepare for afternoon and evening food sales. No play, no movies, no trips to skate town, no fun just work. I would occasionally sneak out of the kitchen to join my dad in the living room following his laughter from a show he was watching. Eventually she'd realize I was gone and make a comment to remind me that the task at hand wouldn't complete itself. The lessons continued. That precision, those skills, that attention to detail were all gifts from her. The things all my previous bosses and customers rave about most were all taught by her. The values and principles I hold dear today are all from those lessons. He was right. I'd been failing her. I wasn't preparing her to be successful and independent in important areas in her life. Things had to change. As I sat there thinking about it all, I realized that by trying to make life so easy for her, I was making it harder. Things needed to change, and they needed to change fast. I needed to teach her the basics and prepare her for life. The real world. A life where mommy and daddy won't always be around to pamper her.
I pulled up several spreadsheets and created a chore chart with age specific tasks. I called her over and told her that I needed her to complete them. There was a daily column as well as a weekly column. "Starting tomorrow, the daily column will have to be completed prior to any screen time."
Her response: Awesome can we start today and can you show me how to do my laundry please? I'd like to start there. I’ve always wanted a chore chart.
I didn't know whether to be happy or sad that she took it so well, but it was confirmation that I was indeed holding her back from things based on my own biases. What else was my own experiences and fears holding her back from? It was time to reevaluate my parenting plan.