Thursday, July 11, 2013

Summer Vacation? HA!

Anyone who has known me for more than, oh, five minutes knows that I really do not like summer. Never have, never will. No, not even when I was a kid. School vacation was fine and dandy - it was just the hazy, hot and humid part that made me droop.

Becoming a mother gave summer a whole new twist, as kids who were accustomed to having their days filled by school were suddenly draped all over the house with not enough to do and nowhere to do it except directly beneath my feet.  Not that they dared complain: it didn't take any of them very long to learn that saying, "I'm bored" would be the equivalent of volunteering for hard labor. But just because they're smart enough to keep quiet doesn't mean they're immune to the summertime blues. And after five kids, trust me, I know the signs.

So years ago, when my oldest was about ten or twelve, I decided that summers would be a time for making sure my kids knew how to take care of themselves. With schedules being lighter and the days more relaxed, we embarked on Operation Real Life. Each child was given the task of making dinner one night/week. They had to plan what to make, prepare a shopping list, accompany me to the grocery store to get their items, and then make the meal.

I was prepared for complaints, but honestly, this is one of the few things I did right with my crew. Does it mean extra work for me? Yes, for the first few years. Do they enjoy it? Not always. But they get past that and learn to enjoy paging through cookbooks or browsing to find something new and interesting to prepare. Best of all, after the first few years of this, they have the confidence and training in the kitchen to be able to cook independently.

The cooking experiment worked so well that we expanded it into other areas of self-care. Once they learn how to do laundry in grade 6 FACS class, they become responsible for their own clothing. When they hit high school, Mom stops making school lunches. When a button falls off a shirt - okay, yeah, we usually end up tossing it. There are limits, people :-)

Best of all is that between these steps, regular household chores, and our infamous Ten Minute Tidies (everyone working together for ten minutes straight to pick up and tidy), by the time they leave for college they are fairly self-sufficient. Do they know how to handle every situation? Heck no. But they have a great foundation to build upon. And oh, I can't describe the joy I felt after my eldest's first year of university when he looked at me and said, "Remember all those times I whined because you made me cook and clean and look after myself? THANK YOU."

So summers, much as I dislike them, have paid off big-time for my kids and me. And now that I have deadlines to juggle, I am more than happy to hand over cooking duties a few nights each week! But I still have two children with a substantial number of summers at home ahead of them, so tell me - how do you help get your kids through the summer? How did or are you preparing them for Life After High School? Or what was the best thing anyone ever did to prepare you for real life? One lucky commenter will receive a gorgeous silver bookmark, so speak up!

Zippy Summer Shrimp from - the meal my twelve-year-old made for us tonight!


Mary Preston said...

I don't like cooking & I'm positive I have passed that gene along to my children. I do cook, & can cook, but only because people need to be fed properly. My children do manage to feed themselves when I'm not around, so I guess osmosis is at work.

Beth Andrews said...

Kris, I did something similar with the cooking; had each child pick one day of the week and plan and fix a meal. They're also in charge of laundry and keeping the kitchen clean as well as cleaning the house (bathrooms, dusting, running the vacuum).

I've always told them I didn't care if they ever cooked or cleaned for themselves as adults (Big Sis will probably hire a maid *g*) but at least they'll know how to do both!

kris said...

Mary, LOL. Hey - your dislike of cooking might actually be healthier in the long run than those of us who, oh, might love to bake a little too much ...

Beth, exactly! Even if they never make use of the knowledge, at least they have it. Odds are they'll need to do at least a little cooking & cleaning throughout their lives, so now they're prepared for whatever might come their way.

Pamela Hearon said...

My kids, none of whom ever cared for helping in the kitchen, have all become amazing cooks! ^shrug^ They did all help around the house, but it was never anything as carefully scheduled as your brilliant plan. Kudos on your resourcefulness!

Kristina Mathews said...

My 15 year old has kept busy this summer by doing odd jobs for his grandparents. He's becoming a master weed-eater and septic tank lid un-coverer. His grandparents are in real estate.

He amazes me by how I can ask him to do something, and he usually does it. Keeping his room clean, on the other hand... Then there's that mysterious black box that magically produces clean dishes.

My ten year old is useless. He complains about being asked to pick up his socks. He'll do jobs for his grandparents, if they pay him. I should let him help more with cooking because he is super picky and has nut allergies.

Snookie said...

My son is totally "hands on". He hated school, but loved to cook, washed his own laundry and did any number of chores in the yard (unasked) and worked on cars. We weren't sure he was going to make it out of high school, but we did know that he could take care of himself. He started cooking at around 5 yrs old. He would scramble eggs with canned corned beef. Then at about 7 he started making pancakes for us. I wouldn't let him turn the stove on without being there until he was about 10. Then he started baking, making fried rice, grilling and beef stews. He does laundry but doesn't fold clothes... so he either hangs them up on hangers or wears them wrinkled!

kris said...

Pamela, hey, sounds like they were learning a lot even when they were playing the reluctant card :-)

Kristina, wow, is the 15 year old available for lending? Good for him!And I bet cooking would be a great activity for the 10 year old, especially as he grows & will need to be more responsible for managing his allergies.

Snookie, your son sounds like he's in great shape for real life - and LOL, his theory of laundry sounds very similar to mine!

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