Teaching kids to work

Deep down we all know the real reason people have children: free child labor.

When we had our first child I knew we were in for a good ten years of crazy before things started to settle down and we could cash in on our investment. We’re nearly nine years into this parenting gig and our three oldest children (8,6,4) are fully enrolled in Learn to Work 101.

Basically that means that I clean everything twice.

I routinely feel like I’m training Curious George. They’re willingish and both my boys have hands and thumbs, but I’ve learned that there are certain things that are better left un-kid-cleaned. Like windows. I’ll take a few greasy finger and lip prints over the sticky swirly mess that my kids happily come up with. They don’t seem to realize that we’re not going for “opaque.”

I’ve decided that one of Harrison’s (8) Saturday chores is cleaning and detailing the car. If you’ve ever seen a vehicle transport that taxi’s small children around you know that all it takes is one 30 minute ride and the car is a crumb coated, plastic wrappered, school papered, hidden sippy cupped mess. And somehow the “no food” rule doesn’t seem to cover the existence of crumbs. I’m pretty sure they load up their pockets and sprinkle remnants of pop tarts and toast around the car just in case we get lost on the way home.

When you teach a kid to clean any large area you have to do it in stages, and the stages have to be stupid simple. When I send Harrison down to the car it’s on a step-by-step basis and he has to get each step cleared before moving on. For instance:

1. Open car doors

2. Climb inside car

3. Remove car seats etc.

Last week I had Harrison working on the car and had just reached step seven, remove rugs from car. “Harrison!” I called, “Are you ready for me to come check?” He threw back an extremely put out, overly grumpy “Yeah,” and I started to head down.

Then I thought, there’s no reason I should get to have all the fun around here, so I turned to Mr. Honeydo himself. One thing about my husband that warrants keeping his last name on my social security card is his rocking personal work ethic. It’s like being married to a bald Martha Stewart, he always gets the job done and usually does it well (unless it’s laundry which he hates).

“Hey Sweetheart,” I said, using our favorite now-I’m-going-to-ask-you-something-you-really-don’t-want-to-hear term of endearment, “Why don’t you go down and check on Harrison and the car, just give him the next step.”

He shrugged and set aside the large stack of cardboard boxes he was collapsing (because he rocks) then tromped down to the garage.

Five minutes later I walked into the office and found Harrison playing computer games.

“What?! Why are you here? There’s no way you finished that car already!”

“Oh,” he said, “Dad said I didn’t have to.” He smiled and I stomped down to the garage in a huff.

“Jason! What are you doing down here?” I yelled over the roar of the vacuum.

“Oh,” he said turning it off, “I’m just detailing the car.”

“But that’s Harrison’s job!”

“I know, but he’s horrible at it. I figured it would just be faster if I did it myself,” he said, flipping the switch back on and promptly ignoring me.

I almost pulled the plug and threw a fit, but we all know that the only thing harder than teaching your kids something is teaching your husband. When it comes down to it, I guess I┬ádon’t care how the car gets cleaned as long as long as I’m not the one who has to do it.


  1. Ha! That is hilarious!!

    • LOVE IT, my husband would say… what??? I don’t understand what is wrong the way it is:-) You got a good man if he will clean and detail your car. Not saying I don’t have a good man, …. just sayin your a luck girl:-)

  2. Child Labor eh??!! (good for you)
    I agree it is easier to “teach” your kids then your husband
    With the kids you just say” I’m the mom, do it or else”
    With the hubby ” I am the love of your life, get’er done”
    I am now married to a 64 year old who has spent a lot of years as a bachelor (despit the odd girlfriends tossed in here and there)
    NEVER….have I so believed in the phrase “can’t teach an old dog new tricks”