Worth a Repeat.

While reading through some old blog posts, I decided this one from July 23, 2009, was worth a repeat. So once more.. "Just a Clean Kitchen...Or is It?

We had one of our usually busy days yesterday. I'd gone to an early morning yoga class, put finishing touches on our bathroom remodel, evaluated and gave suggestions to a 10 year old girl who wanted some help with her speech, had a call from a dear friend from Texas that I miss so much and talked 1 1/2 hours, visited with another friend and her son who came by so that Brenna could help her daughter learn to throw on the pottery wheel, watched Logan play a bit of Rock Band, danced at Zumba, dropped Logan off at his cousin's house, picked up a few groceries for dinner, watched my favorite show, "So You Think You Can Dance", picked Logan up during a commercial break, talked to Broc who is in Maryland at sales meetings all week and watched Brenna putting some finishing touches on some pottery pieces.

It was 10:00 and we were hungry! Brenna requested waffles so while listening to Rock Band and talking with Brenna, I made up some batter. The table and kitchen counter top were covered with clay and pots and I was so busy talking that I tried to put the waffle batter into the George Foreman Grill (which in our house should be called the Grilled Cheese Sandwich Grill because that's the only thing we ever use it for). I finally got the appliance right and the first batch of waffles oozed out on the counter which was fun to watch but made a huge mess! There were dishes from the whole day and then strawberries and bananas and maple syrup and whipped cream and nuts and then after we ate, all those dishes and the mess the dog had made while she was eating all over the floor!

The kitchen looked like right after all the guests have gone home from a large party but it was 11:00 and I still needed to get on Facebook :-), so I hugged the kids and headed to bed thinking that I would clean it up in the morning.

This is what I saw first thing when I stumbled (well I didn't really stumble but it makes for a good story) into the kitchen this morning to make some coffee and read the newspaper. There's the newspaper and the coffee right there on the table and now my laptop is here and I'm happily writing this quite lengthy post instead of cleaning the kitchen.

The only two people home besides me are my teenagers, Brenna and Logan, and one or both of them took the time to clean the kitchen late last night. These are kids who haven't had chores for 7 years! They live in harmony with their parents and 3 animals and they choose without any
rules or demands to help keep our home enjoyable to live in. No one raises their voices here unless it's to be heard over the sound of a game in the next room. There are never slamming doors or sneaking around or angry outbursts. We all like each other and enjoy our time together.

Which brings me to why I was thinking about this very thing yesterday. A Facebook Friend (someone who I know only from a homeschool co-op we used to go to) had a status update yesterday that I commented on because it made me a little crazy and I'm bringing it here without the names....


(Parent 1) Is there an easier way to get teenagers to clean

(Parent 1) Believe it or not I have actually done that! It was a few years ago. I am not just talking about their rooms though. I mean the HOUSE. They leave crap wherever it lands. I have asked them to clean this morning and they are meandering around. Oh yeah.. and for door slamming I have taken the door off the hinges! I am a mean mom. But it's all in love, right?

(Parent 3)is there such a thing as "cleaning teenagers?"

(Parent 4) haha funny....i remember one of my friends losing her bedroom door for a year for sneaking a boy through her window!

(Parent 1) That's what the alarm system is for! haha!

So the trashing of teens was bothering me enough that I posted this knowing that it really wouldn't make any impact....

Gail Batchelor Higgins
If you are really asking.....What's worked for us.....joyfully cleaning ourselves and treating our kids with the same trust and respect we would any adult friend...It's a win/win. Teens who are respectful and help out because they are trusted and valued....it's not a popular viewpoint around here but I wouldn't trade the relationship I have with my kids because of it for anything in the world....

(Parent 4) Well, my 2 year old cleans up and the 8 month old twins are in training!!!LOL!! What the heck!?!?!? The other 5 definitely know what time it is! They can do NOTHING they want to do until it's clean. They already know this, so there really isn't much discussion about it anymore.
If they don't comply, the chauffering stops and the gadgets get locked up until it's done!
"There's not enough time?" .....get up earlier!
"We're too tired!" .....stop staying up late!
What is really going on?!?!? There's a whole lot of things to remove from a teenagers life, so you've got TONS of leverage!!! There's going to be a million things in life you don't feel like doing, you better get over it now! Not to mention the spiritual aspects of obedience and discipline....

(Parent 5) I am quick to remind mine....."Hey, I cleaned up for a long time before any of you could do much to help"
Sorry...I kinda went off...LOL!!!! You hit a nerve, I've seen too many lazy, selfish, and disrespectful teenagers

(Parent 6) Parent 4, I think i should send my kids over to you for a week! heheh

And then Parent 1 (the only parent that I know, posted this)

(Parent 1) Gail, I totally hear you and wish I knew how to put that into real practice! I just get so irritated when I ask them to do something and they say they don't want to and it's usually something they messed up anyway.
Name of Parent 4 here, you are outrageous girl! I do take the stuff away if they don't do what I ask them to. I just want to get to the day when I ...don't have to make those threats to get them to move. That they will just do what needs to be done.
But I have to remember we are talking about teenagers and even myself as an adult has a hard time doing what needs to be done when it needs to be done


So there it is. I know I'm in the South. I know that these attitudes about teens are pervasive but excuse me, these people have these amazing children in their lives and they treat them with disrespect and expect them to be their maids? I think Parent 1 has teens that have been homeschooled but are all going back to school. I'd probably go back to school if any of these people were my parents and move out the first possible moment! I have a teenage stepdaughter that lives in a house like this AND I know she can't wait to move out.....Hope I don't step on any toes here but seriously people...Get a CLUE!!


So back to my story.... I haven't always been a parent who trusts her children. When the kids were young, I had chore lists and arbitrary rules and bedtimes and food restrictions and I could see the damage it was doing to my kids and our relationship. It was easy to be a traditional rule- based parent and I was good at and could have justified it all day long. But, why would you continue doing something that is damaging your relationship with your children just because you're surrounded by people who are doing it?

I had a choice. I could continue on that path or find another way to parent. I chose trust and found a way through radical unschooling to become a parent who values the relationship I have with my kids much more than obedience. I value them as the amazing individuals that I live with too much to force them through rules or punishment to do things like clean the kitchen, mow the lawn, feed the dog, make your bed, eat your vegetables, go to bed because I think it's time, be in by 12:00 sharp because at 12:01 you are grounded!!

Trust was the key. It lead to caring deeply for each other and love and mutual respect and lots of fun and laughter. I've gone on and on and I know for the most part I'm preaching to the choir here but sometimes something happens and it just hits you and makes you thankful for your life and your kids and and the laughter and the fun and the friends around the world who have chosen this lifestyle too...

I wouldn't have minded getting up this morning and happily cleaning the kitchen thinking about the fun evening we had last night but.....

...... take a look at that picture again.......

Just sayin......:-)


Laura said…
Good for you for saying something! I probably would have kept my mouth shut. I'm working on that though.

You have wonderful kids Gail. :)
dharmamama said…
What - no "before"? ;)

Thanks, Gail! I think one part that's key - I wouldn't have minded getting up this morning and happily cleaning the kitchen thinking about the fun evening we had last night is something a lot of folks miss.

It took some WORK on my part, to get to that point. A lot of looking inside, letting go of old beliefs, etc. But so, so worth it to get there!
Frank said…
Great post, Gail.

Dictatorial parents are always so surprised when their subjects prefere not to gleefully participate in their own serfdom and want to leave home as often and as soon as possible.

Even a tiny amount of self-examination would show those folks where the onus for that lies.
Bonnie said…
Woo! You go Gail! Honestly I wonder why these kind of people even HAVE children. Why have kids if you don't LIKE kids? Birth control was around long before today's teenagers were conceived. Just sayin'.

It's funny, I grew up in a house with absolutely no chores ever, and my grandma and mom kept things more messy than clean. Flash forward and I'm the one who cares about things being clean, I even did Flylady for awhile after my grandma died (when I was 17). Totally my choice, and I actually find certain kinds of cleaning fun now. Of course conventional parents would have you believe that's impossible. By now I should be living in a giant garbage heap, by their count ;)
meredith said…
Its true, free teens are such amazing people! Hoorah! Ray cleans the kitchen as often as George does... more often than I do some weeks. And he cooks! Somedays he and George will argue over who "gets" to cook for me. I'm so spoiled ;)
Sandra Dodd said…
I can't believe Gail Higgins wrote "WTF." That's some strong ranting there!

Beautiful kitchen, beautiful kids, beautiful account. Thanks for writing all that. I'm glad I read it.
I just tonight saw an update in FB from an old high school friend. She was predicting that in 5 more seconds she would give her (4yr old) daughter something to cry about. WHAT? People still say that?

I felt the need to respond so I said something along the lines of "Poor kid. Give each other a big hug. It's not always easy to be a kid. Or a mom."

The responses came quickly...
Needless to say, most were very different than mine. It made me feel so bad for the little bug. I felt good for at least saying something. Maybe it will get her thinking, you know?

Thanks for the reminder. I admit this is a subject that is driving me crazy. I do catch myself getting resentful sometimes. But, my kids are still younger, and I need to be patient. That day will come!
gail said…
I meant to go back today and take the "WTF" part and maybe just my whole little rant out but I didn't.
Hope it didn't offend anyone too much. Nothing much gets under my skin except people just being mean to their kids. I certainly could have expressed that in a nicer way.
gail said…
So....The WTF on my part was haunting me so I took it out! It really wasn't necessary and I'm all calm about it now. :-)
Christy said…
I'm so with you! I hate seeing parents being mean to their kids. Logan is always happy to help me when I ask, and if he isn't for some reason that is ok too. He's a great kid and we never fight and no one believes me. (Well, I know you do).
Jill P said…
Darn, I missed the WTF part. (just so you know, one doesn't need to say all the words... I now pronounce it wuhtuhfuh, as Mortuse says in some WoW videos on youtube.) Anyway to the post....

I loved the part about you not minding cleaning the kitchen the next morning. I really like cleaning the kitchen in the morning when the house is quiet.

The other morning I got a note beside my computer from Addi, that said she had made something to add to Steve's lunch, and to make sure it got in his lunch bag. So sweet. It was some of the sauteed apples with cinnamon and sugar that she had made as a late night snack for herself and Luke.
Pam said…
That was lovely, Gail. I really enjoyed reading the whole thing. It does seem like such a little thing - someone cleaning the kitchen without being asked - but it says so MUCH about the attitude of your kids. So much! Wanting to help out seems natural to them. That urge is in them - you can't force someone to have the urge to help out by forcing them to help out. And there is more that is hard to label, isn't there? That they feel such a sense of their home being "theirs." I think very many teens live with a constant sense that their home is not theirs - this feeling gets stronger as they get older and they feel more and more alienated from their parents and less and less like an integral part of their family.
Sandra Dodd said…
-=- I think very many teens live with a constant sense that their home is not theirs --=-

Many are told in words that it's not theirs. "As long as you're under MY roof," and "Well you don't make the rules around here" and "Not in MY house..."

This is important:
-=-I just tonight saw an update in FB from an old high school friend. She was predicting that in 5 more seconds she would give her (4yr old) daughter something to cry about. -=-

If a man wrote on facebook that in about five seconds he was going to give his (25yr old) wife something to cry about, someone might call 911 for her. That post would be evidence in court and he would go to jail.

Gail, I wasn't offended. I was impressed that something made you angry enough to even type the letters wtf, because you're so calm and kind. I was just teasing you.
Tall Kate said…
I just love reading posts like this. I also admire your willingness to speak up on FB -- I have to confess I've blocked having to read some friends' status updates because I get too depressed reading their negativity about their kids!
Deanne said…
Thank you for sharing all this! I aspire to be a joyful cleaner, but still struggle with it. Your story gives me hope. ;)
Heather said…
Thank you for sharing this. these things bother me a lot. I'm not always so shy when it's on the internet. (I am more shy in person). But I figure if someone had the gall (sp?) to post it on facebook then I can say what I want.

The general disrespect of children and teens makes me very sad.
Madeline Rains said…
Gail, I wish you'd left the WTF in too. : ) I often try to explain to non-unschooling friends why the no- chore thing makes sense (among other things but the chore one comes up frequently) and have never done it this articulately. I will add your story to my explanation. I too have erased FB friends whose constant ranting made me crazy.It would be better to give positive alternatives as you did. You are so awesome.
Christina said…
Hi! I also have a blog that explores alternative theories of education (cgremore.wordpress.com), although I was not unschooled myself and I don't have kids yet. I just think it's a neat idea, and one that more people should be aware of.

Enjoyed your post. I wonder, though, if you have any advice on how this translates to a roommate situation. I have been living with a girl my age for 8 months now. Obviously, I am not her mother and we both pay equal rent so I can't 'force' her to do anything (although I was living in the apartment before she moved in and I'll still be there when she leaves at the end of the year to study abroad). So I have tried to set an example, but she fails to get the hint. The last time she vacuumed was when her mother came to visit three months ago. She washes her dirty dishes after leaving them sitting out for a week, and sometimes (unprompted by me) claims that she doesn't have time to do 'household chores' (though as her roommate I know exactly how much time she wastes). She is still in school (taking two summer classes currently) while I have chosen to take a full-time job. So it's not like I have any more free time than she does.

I guess what I wanted to do was provide a different perspective on this issue. She is someone whom I treat with respect, whom I consider a close friend, and whose life I have no control over. But toilets need to be cleaned, floors need to be swept, and it's like she just assumes magical elves do these things at night. Or else she thinks of me as the maid. Or else she still thinks of herself as a child (since she's still in school) and as such, conforms with our society's unfair stereotype of the lazy, self-absorbed teenager.

Sandra Dodd said…
-=- But toilets need to be cleaned, floors need to be swept, and it's like she just assumes magical elves do these things at night. Or else she thinks of me as the maid. Or else she still thinks of herself as a child (since she's still in school) and as such, conforms with our society's unfair stereotype of the lazy, self-absorbed teenager.-=-

Toilets themselves have no needs.
Floors themselves have no needs.

Maybe she thinks of herself as an adult who isn't as bothered by mess as you are. You can't expect roommates to have the same tolerance for messiness.

Unschooling isn't about roommates; it's about parents and children. Sorry I can't help you with the roommate situation, except to say the negativity you feel toward her might take more energy and put more lines in your face than cleaning your toilet would.

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