Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Cleaning House: One Mom's 12-Month Experiment to Rid Her Home of Youth Entitlement - Kay Wills Wyma

I don't think I'll ever get tired of people's 12-month Experiments to Do X. It appeals to my sense of order and my voyeurism.

Let's get this out of the way: Wyma is not my favorite. Usually what appeals to me about these sorts of experiment is the voice of the experimenter, and then the activity itself. I like A J Jacobs' chatty brain, and then ALSO trying to read the encyclopedia or become the healthiest person alive sounds like something I'd do.

[Edited to add: review completely jumps the shark here for a second and runs into Personal Peeve Territory, which is wild and dangerous and full of weevils.] But Wyma is One Of Those Ladies. You know the kind. Those 'Oh, I'm that annoying creative type that can never be regulated WHERE IS MY MIND' etc. Like having a scattered brain is cute. And this whole treating-vices-as-though-they-were-virtues is very Victorian, but not in the fun, literary mad-relatives way. More in the we should abolish this now way. I mean, it's no longer sexy for women to be swoony and air-headed, but OH MY HEAVENS I am so bad at organization, or being on time, or not buying shoes when I can't afford shoes. These aren't adorable quirks, these are character flaws, and I'm not saying I'm always organized and tidy (I'm not), or that I drown in guilt about my lack of organization or tidiness (I don't), I just...I recognize that it's not charming to be these things, and I don't treat them like, I don't know, a penchant for limes or the ability to play the ukelele. Develop actual hobbies and traits, people. Not being able to stay on top of laundry doesn't count.

Please watch this river for a bit; someone is busy cooling her jets.

Ok but I have at least one child and will probably have a couple more, and in college I had two roommates who didn't know not to use metal utensils on teflon pans and that you had to buy more toilet paper when you ran out of toilet paper and that STOP COOKING CHICKEN ON MY NICE BAKING SHEET AMANDA, and I am determined that my kids will not be those kids. Which is why this 'chores' thing is important to me.

So! One day KWW wakes up and is like, Holy shit, I have been doing for all my children and now they are all like, Get me a glass of water and do my laundry and you like making snacks so make me a snack, I am a helpless beast. So month by month, she increases their responsibilities around the house, starting with things like making their beds and moving on to Proper Cleaning of Bathrooms and Planning-Slash-Making of Meals and Running of Errands and her kids are like Ugh being civilized human being is so harrrrrrd and she is like

and eventually they start doing those things. Which, ok, the message of the book is great. Kids are capable of taking on way more responsibility than we give them, and if you do everything yourself, not only are you depriving your kids of a learning opportunity, but you are subtly communicating to them that they CAN'T do it. Plus, giving them real and useful work to do helps them feel accomplished and necessary, not like useless wastes of space.

And there are a number of good take-aways, like how you should make your kids get jobs out of the house because there's something very different about taking orders from and being accountable to Not Your Mom, so EVEN IF they work at a kids' camp and you have to give them a 'wage' from your own pocket (because KWW is clearly kind of moneyed) it is worth the lesson in responsibility.

So if you can read around the Ha ha oh ME, how you do run on, and the 'people sometimes tell me' (which form of self-flattery is the LOLiest because what people), and how rullllll religious it gets at about the halfway mark, and this one particularly sanctimonious episode where she and her kids help teach a crusty (IN BOTH SENSES OF THE WORD [too gross?]) old lady how to operate the laundromat machines, while making it super clear that this woman is a Boozer and Probably Homeless because that's what makes their help Worthwhile and Sacrificing, then...I forget my point. This is a book with words in it, anyway.

Six caterpillars!


Reading Rambo said...

Yeah, see, I'm an example of the Not Made to Do Chores Because I Was the Youngest and the Only Girl and Oh Don't Make Her Lift Things upbringing style. And it has resulted in a MULTITUDE of problems, such as me not realizing dishes really do need to be done by someone, and that someone should be me. And I still don't know how to clean properly. Or do basically anything domestic. But I ENVY those who do.

Also that lady sounds irritating to hang out with. The end.

Jenners said...

I too am in love with 12 month experiment books. There just aren't enough of them.

I am just now beginning to get my 8-year-old to do some chores … and it is a bitch. He does feel entitled (probably due to me and being an only child) and now I feel like a nag. I'm waiting for him to master his very basic chores before upping the ante but we'll get there. I know I resented it like hell growing up but now I totally see the point. : )

MacavityandMycroft said...

You should have a look at Elizabeth Pantley's No Cry Discipline solution. Among other things, she talks a lot about thinking about end goals early. So far (cross your fingers!) it's working with our son. At age 3 you aren't expected to clear the table, but you clear your plate and cup. You don't vacuum, but you help clean up the toys from the floor so Mommy/Daddy can. Currently our 5 year old empties the cutlery basket of the dishwasher everyday without complaint and does an additional 'chore' per day.

The idea here is that you don't turn on a kid at age 8 or 10 (or 14, yikes!) and suddenly introduce the idea. You start with the idea that everyone helps out from the get-go and slowly increase responsibilities.

Again, ours is young yet, but the system makes a lot of sense!

Kayleigh said...

Sounds like an idea that is excellent (teach kids to be people) with a delivery that is fuh-rustrating. KWW sounds kind of insufferable.

But learning to do chores is good! My first place was just an explosion of recycling that never got taken out.

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seenonflickr said...

I also love year-long-experiment books.

Trying to decide if I'll read this one, though:

Lindsey said...

Oh no. I feel like this book would bring out the crazy in me. My son is five and he already knows to clean up his toys, clear the table, sweep under the table after dinner, and help with laundry. So many sighs.
Who knew you had to teach your kids to be responsible human beings?!? said...

can you recommend some other 12 months of Xs? I've read Gretchen Rubin's Happier at Home and Vanessa Farquharson Sleeping Naked... and I love the genre. More please!

Meg @ write meg! said...

I adored this review -- as I do all your reviews -- and also love the "my year-long experiment with X!"-types of memoirs. Some of them have been huge flops with me, but I just can't quit them.

Christy said...

I usually end up loving when reviews jump the shark. I'm with you on that rant.

I was the middle of three sisters and my parents set us up on a rota for certain chores. So one month for the dishes category, you'd have to wash dishes, but the next month you only had to set the table. We were given a dime for each chore and that was our allowance. If I ever end of up having kids, I'll probably have to raise wages for the rise in cost of living since then. :)