I’ve kind of gotten into the groove of having my oldest daughter home during the day. She graduated from high school and only has evening college classes.
I mourned losing my quiet, solitary mornings until I began to realize what a great thing it could be. Since she seemed in no hurry to get a job, I decided she could “work” for me. I wasn’t going to pay her, but if I had to put up with her all morning and afternoon, she might as well be useful to me.
So I did some research to justify my plan. On the website, theusaonline.com, I found that in the 17th and early 18th centuries, “these earliest families were productive units, not sentimental, affectionate groupings… Children assisted their parents from an early age… Everywhere, family, business and social order were combined. Emotional satisfaction was not a function of the family.”
My daughter was lucky to have been born in the late 20th century and live into the 21st century. Not only was her function in my husband’s and my lives not for practical contribution, but as a female, she got to go to school, finish school and go on to higher education.
She gets to live in a time when her purpose in our lives is only to add to the affectionate, sentimental and emotional satisfaction of our family unit. But let’s get real here. I had a teenager, graduated from high school, riding the waves of luxury, staying up all hours of the night and sleeping in until noon.
Not in my house. I informed her I would not tell her when to go to bed anymore, she was old enough to decide (yes, I’m one of those parents who insist my high school children get 8 hours of sleep, even if it means setting their bedtime). However, I would be getting her up at 8:00am and she would be doing chores for me.
I figured this would achieve one of two things. She would hate doing chores and hurry up and get a job and/or I would get a lot done around the house. The first couple weeks, it all went very well. She went to bed at a decent hour, I got her up at 8:00am, I gave her a small list of chores and we began to click along at this rhythm.
After a few weeks of this, she started ignoring her alarm knowing all she really had to accomplish that day was to get to school. I’d get caught up in whatever work I was doing across the house in the computer room and totally forget I even had a child in the house.
It also began to take her so long to get up, eat and shower that by the time she was ready, it was time for me to start dinner and time for her to go to school. Then the homework started happening. She is taking art classes, how much homework could there be? Well, when it’s painting, the homework is not so much “home” work, but go to school and work on it work. There went the last of the time for extra chores.
Then the next phase began. I was yelling instructions across the house to her the other morning. She was up, dressed and had eaten. No answer. I yelled again (yelling across the house being my preferred model of parenting). Still no answer. I stormed down the hall and into her room, furious that she was ignoring me. She was sitting happily in front of her computer, earphones plugged into her iPod, humming along to the tunes.
Life was difficult for parents in the 17th and 18th centuries, but they never had to compete with a computer and an iPod.
Gretchen Leigh is a stay-at-home mom who lives in Covington. She is committed to winning the good fight over computers and iPods. You can also read more of her writing and her daily blog on her website livingwithgleigh.com or on Facebook at “Living with Gleigh.” Her column is available every week at maplevalleyreporter.com under the Lifestyles section.