I have come to the conclusion that my children’s lives are just too rosy. No wait — hear me out. This is deep.
Today their fabulous father called from running errands to say that he was going to pick Jack and Victoria up in 3 minutes and take them to a nearby state park. I gave them the news and they promptly… complained.
It was too cold outside. They didn’t want to. It sounded boring. Did they have to?
I suggested they could take their cameras and do photo challenges, and then pick their favorite pictures to put up on a family Flickr page (sound familiar?). I said we could do themes for each day, like taking pictures of things that started with the letter C or from weird angles or finding beauty where others wouldn’t think to look.
I got whines from one and scowls from the other.
At that point I went into ranting mother mode, I’m afraid to say. I asked them if they had any idea how many children would love to "have" to go to a state park and play. I reminded them that they could be in school doing algebra! I informed them that they were spoiled by too much fun and didn’t know how good they had it.
They ended up going, and I’m pretty sure Victoria really did like the idea of the photography assignment because she grabbed her camera up pretty quickly despite her scowls. When she came home, she even proudly showed me some pictures she took of deer she encountered in the woods. Jack came home all smiles, too, and Daryl told me that they frequently grumble about going anywhere and then they have a blast once they’re there.
But I still think there’s something to the fact that we need to have the bad to appreciate the good.
We need to get sick sometimes to appreciate feeling good again.
We need to have gray days to appreciate the sunny.
We need a little sadness to appreciate the happy times.
We need chores. We need drudgery. We even need failure sometimes and loss.
My kids have all that, of course. I’m just beginning to think they need a bit more!
Last night, the kids were bickering. I was busy wasting time on the computer and ignored it at first, and then I called out to them to dial it back. They kept at it and I finally had enough.
I hollered out that Jack and Anna needed to clean with me for 15 minutes and I set the kitchen timer. Any whining or acting obnoxious about it and I’d add 5 minutes, I informed them. They dutifully (if not happily) followed me and I set to work giving them tasks to do.
In the end, Anna earned an extra 5 minutes and Jack kept going after the timer beeped. He told me it was fun. By the time the 20 minuteswas up, Anna was glad to be able to go back upstairs and was in a surprisingly better mood. She thanked me for helping her cheer up (!!!!) and asked if they could all play again. I said they only could if they could get along, and they agreed. There wasn’t any more squabbling that night. And my downstairs looked much nicer!
Now I don’t want to give the impression my children are ungrateful brats, because they’re really pretty nice little people. They thank me for making dinner and help out around the house and clean up ditches and make people lots of presents. They care about people and animals. They take care of their little brother. They do chores and give to charity.
But I think perhaps there’s been a little too much free time and fun stuff, and a little too little rotten stuff to suffer through! I think our mothers and grandmothers may have been on to something when they said that stuff builds character. If nothing else, it builds gratitude when it all stops!
So during the next few weeks I’m going to do a little experiment. We’re going to have more workbook pages and family cleaning sprees. We’re going to have more assigned chores and … whatever else that counts as drudgery that we do around here. I’m not that fluent in drudgery. You can tell by the state of my kitchen.
We’ll still make sunbutter beards and play soccer and go to parks and do art together. We have three birthdays this week so there can’t be too much drudgery this week anyway. But I’ll add in a little more of the icky stuff on the off days.
It’s in the interest of science
and happy childhoods
and a cleaner kitchen.
So where do you stand on the icky stuff? Can life be too good? Or have I gone to the dark side?