The Importance of Ick

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? 

Weigh in!



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8 responses to “The Importance of Ick

  1. Anonymous

    Hmmm…I definitely am a chore-type mom, because I feel better, and I know everyone feels better, when we have a clean house. And I can’t do it myself. I haven’t ever thought of chores under the aspect of making them grateful for non-chore time, though! Maybe there’s something to that! I don’t think I was personally all that grateful for things until I started having children myself. My parents were really giving and a lot of fun and I loved them, but the actual gratefulness factor took awhile to really kick in, on my part.

  2. Anonymous

    Us Too!
    I agree! Life can be too good!
    The picklets have been acting in much the same matter. I really crack it up to having too much free time on their hands. Anytime someone opens their mouth anymore they bicker or act really snotty toward the others. It seems they don’t remember how to act as a family or as a team anymore. Each person for themselves so to say.
    Yesterday, I set them each in a different room and had them do book work. I am not a book work type person but I needed a break! It did help until supper time. Needless to say, cool sent Dill to bed early because of his attitude.
    My husband thinks they are around each other too much and that is why they are acting like that. On one hand I might agree but on the other they are all involved in outside activities, have their own schooling and do things seperate of each other. I honestly think they are bored and need something constructive to do.
    I have a list of “school” work for them today. We will see if that helps. If not, I will put their hands to work cleaning windows and scrubbing baseboards. 😀
    As it has been said, “An idle mind is the devil’s playground.” Who-da-thunk the Music Man would apply to my family life??? LOVE IT!

  3. Anonymous

    that last comment was from me…Gerky

  4. Anonymous

    Ick is Important!
    Sometimes I think this is what people mean when they ask if our kids will be able to make it in “the real world.” Will they be able to tolerate doing things they don’t really feel like doing, spending time on unpleasant tasks, following directions when someone else is in charge–all the “ick” of ordinary life. But what they don’t understand is that there is plenty of ick to go around, whether our kids attend school are not! I think you’ve found a perfect balance of beauty, wonder, fun, and gratitude, duty, and plain old ick.
    I like the new look, by the way!

  5. Anonymous

    Bring on the ick!
    I really needed to read this tonight! I hadn’t thought of it in that way (that their lives are too rosy), but now I can see it! My sons are homeschooled. My 7 year old takes 1/2 hour swim classes twice a week (at the Great Wolf Lodge so after the classes we all just play in the waterpark)(he loves swimming) and takes a Japanese class once a week for one hour, and that is it. Today he told me that two classes is too much (“it’s too long, I get hungry, I get bored…”). Ugh. They don’t know how good they’ve got it. Of course, I want to keep it good because I believe in a life like this, but yeah, I’m ready to throw in a bit of true drudgery!

  6. Anonymous

    Hmmm….I wouldn’t exactly call it ICK, but we all do better with some structure. The boys (Daegan more than Gareth, due to age) have responsibilities in the morinngs: getting dressed, tidying their rooms, homeschool, chores / helping with housework, and helping with errands. We’ve really gotten into a Charlotte Mason sort of thing with short, focused ‘lessons’ (and short focused chores, etc.) Keeps things running smoothly. And leaves the bulk of our afternoons free for playdates and general unstructured activities. You’d have to adapt this, of course, not being a morning person, but the general principles of work before play, and work your hardest for a short time (rather than dawdle for hours) and then break are doing great here now.
    Good luck!

  7. Anonymous

    Me, too!
    “I’m not that fluent in drudgery. You can tell by the state of my kitchen.”
    Haha! I love that. I’m the same way (and so’s my kitchen!)
    I’ve been thinking along the same lines, a bit- plus I am just ready to have a cleaner house. I’ve been brainstorming ways that we can get more chores done- creatively, cooperatively and consistently!
    I love that response to bickering- I will have to try it. Thanks!

  8. Anonymous

    It seems to me that those of us who try and choose Joy still need to find a balance of work and play for our cildren so they can recognize the difference. I would love if the “work” my children chose in their lives always feels like “play” to them. We can’t recognize the one without knowledge of the other!
    BTW- I use your blog as an example of a mama with young ones who has something vital to teach mamas with ANY age children. I love sending people to read your journal and add some joy to their life (and more importantly) the lives of their children.
    mom to the darlin’ dozen.

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