What does "living the simple dream" mean to me?

I always hear people from our generation saying "Ahh, living the dream" when they are doing somthing our of the ordinary - for example: sipping cocktails in a spa of a fancy resort or perhaps they post "living the dream" as the caption beneath a photo of them moving into their new $500,000+ mansion-esque home they have just mortgaged their life away for. At first I was confused by how simple my ambitions were. All I wanted was to live in a caravan and be able to spend as much time enjoying the outdoors with my husband and son, without my husband having to be at work all the time. So for me, this became my simple dream. I find myself having those "Ahh living the dream" moments when I am sitting in a natural hot spring with my husband and son, drinking a beer, ten feet away from a crocodile infested river. Now mine, my husbands and my sons life is all about chasing our simple dream.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Mum, can I help?

Mum, can I help?

‘Mum, can I help?’ – This is the sentence I hear the absolute most from my 3 year old son at home.  It doesn’t seem to matter what I am doing – he wants to help. If he spots me wiping down a bench, mopping floors, baking, tidying or just ‘pottering around’ doing a little bit of everything, he VERY excitedly runs up and asks to help.
Like most mothers I find my days pretty busy ( and most of the time I like that), because of this I found myself trying to rush to get my ‘jobs’ done so that I can have downtime with my son. So I was always responding to my son ‘just let mummy do it mate, then I’ll come and play with you’.

This seemed fine, he never became upset about not being able to help me so it was never something I gave any further thought - until recently. A week or so ago when my uni workload lessened and I found myself with a bit of extra time on my hands – I decided to slowwwww right down.
Zac and I at Ayers rock

I slowed down so much that I started to actually think before I responded to my sons’ requests to help me. When I thought about it I realised that my mum was often disappointed in our disinterest in helping out once we were older. I started wondering if my significantly, efficient mum had perhaps found herself doing the same thing as me – focussing on getting those seemingly “mindless” tasks like cleaning out of the way quickly, in order to have “quality time” for her children.
So I trailed off with my thoughts and began to wonder if maybe it wouldn’t be such a big deal to include Zac in these tasks, to teach him skills like cooking, cleaning, tidying, folding, sorting, packing, washing (clothing and dishes) at his own pace, when his own interest spikes and at such a young age. That way he will become capable at such tasks and also develop an understanding of the domestic duties running a household requires.

So this morning Zac said “Mum, what are you doing” and I responded “I’m putting the washing in the machine so I can wash it”, then came the question “mum, can I help?” What did I say? I said “YES”. He then picked up the clothing items I had placed in the basket on the floor, he loaded them all in the washing machine and with direction he took a scoop of powder and tipped it in, pressed the buttons and started the machine. When the load was finished he was EXCITED to hear the beep (can you believe that? Lol) and because he couldn’t reach the line he requested that he could pass me each peg while I hung the washing out. It was actually really nice to have the company and bring a fresh new light to the world of housework.
Zac washing the dishes for the first time when we were in Darwin, we had to re-wash every one of them once he was in bed but he still enjoyed helping.

Not only does this kind of (voluntary) involvement in the housework teach Zac new skills, it also increases his confidence in himself and what he is capable of. Since that task he has requested (and proceeded) to help me measure, mix and bake a batch of coconut macaroons and ginger bread men, helped me put away the washing and we swept the annex together.
During all of this Zac was so happy and excitable but at the same time he slowed down and genuinely listened to and processed the instructions I gave him. He seemed to feel really satisfied at the end of each task and immediately asked me for something else to help with.

Even though his help can slow things down a lot and make simple tasks quiet tedious, ultimately, I do have the time for that and if that’s what he wants to do and he finds fun at the time than I don’t think he is missing any of the “quality time” he is giving up by missing out on a few of those minutes and hours of sitting on the floor playing with plastic toys together. Not that I will let my domestic responsibilities take away our play time.
I love to teach Zac accountability as a method of discipline. For example if he throws a tantrum that involves knocking his drink on the floor (or something else messy) once he has calmed down I will direct him to the cupboard to get a cloth, then have him clean up the mess he has made. This seems to be far more effective than a punishment that doesn’t actually correlate with the situation he has created. We offer him help and if he accepts than we get a cloth and also help him but he has to be involved too. I guess that including him in domestic tasks (or any tasks for that matter) when he requests, is in the same vein. Some of the other tasks he requests to help with (and we allow him to by finding jobs he CAN do) are:
  • Fixing the car with his dad – Brent will have him pass him tools and will explain what he is doing
  • Baking – he loves baking and we bake together several times a week
  • Carrying things – at the supermarket we allow him to carry a basket with a loaf of bread (or something equally light) if he requests to.
  • Feeding and caring for our guinea pig – this is another way to teach him responsibility aswell as how to be gentle.
  • Sorting – he will sort through his belongings and our belongings with us to choose what we will donate to charity
And many other small tasks like collecting our mail, taking the rubbish out, making our beds, sweeping, washing the car etc.
Zac helping daddy fix the car

I am really enjoying working together and I am enjoying not only his company but the educational aspect of it. I won’t be forcing him into housework as I completely respect that that is my responsibility (and it doesn’t bother me at all) but from now on, when he asks to help, I won’t think twice! It’s a beautiful opportunity to spend even more time together and teach him about tasks his future will most definitely involve.

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