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Thursday, December 12, 2013

When college students come home for break

the curried carrot soup that my daughters made for dinner on Tuesday

Fall quarter has now ended at the university that my two daughters attend. One quarter down! Woohoo! Just 11 more!

Funny thing, early on in the quarter, I asked one of my daughters what she thought about her classes. Her reply, "Mom, you were right, university classes are a lot harder than high school classes." I put a surprised look on my face, but in my heart I was smiling, as I said, "Oh?" It was one of those funny parent moments. But all three of my kids are very hard workers. They all rise to the challenge of hard coursework.

My daughters are commuter students, meaning they come home every evening. But there have been days when it felt more like they were living away, as I only saw them briefly in the mornings, as I drove them to the bus, and again for 5 minutes, when I picked them up in the evenings. Family dinners went by the wayside this fall, as they used every spare moment to work on assignments and projects, away from the family, in their rooms.

Even though they've been living here all along, there are some similarities to the student who comes home on break. The one that I knew I needed to address right away, was a lack of responsibilities during break time. With classes out, their main job, to do classwork, is on hiatus.

Wednesday morning was our first morning of break together. I know myself, and I know that I would get frustrated if it began to seem that they thought break meant vacation from responsibility.  So, right off, I established the chores they would have over break. It's not an onerous list, by any means. Here it is:

-- Prepare dinner 3 days per week: Tuesdays, Fridays and Mondays. Some of the days they will get to choose the menu, other days I'll have a menu in mind. They began with Tuesday night's dinner. The two of them made this amazingly yummy curried carrot soup. They've made this a few times before, using a recipe that they've found online. I really need to get the URL for that one, and pass it on, because it is quite good, and uses very inexpensive ingredients (carrots, potatoes, onions, black pepper, curry powder, to name most of them). With the soup they made blackberry scones and peanut butter filled celery sticks.

Preparing dinner in our house is actually a time-consuming job, as we cook almost everything from scratch, and there's no room in the grocery budget for convenience items. But this is great experience for them. Learning to cook and feed themselves well, at a young age will go far with their health and finances in the years to come.

-- Clean up the kitchen every morning after breakfast. This is one of my usual chores, so I am happy to pass it off to them each day over break.

-- Clean the main bathroom every Saturday. (I'm secretly hoping that they'll start to notice when one of them leaves their pj's on the bathroom floor, and bug each other to pick up their stuff.)

-- Perform 1 big chore, of my choosing, assigned once per week (such as dusting the house, cleaning out the fireplace, or cleaning the baseboards).

-- Hang laundry 2 days per week. We do laundry 4-5 days a week, here. Hanging most of it to dry. Their help will give me a bit more time to do other chores.

My kids are really great, and I'm not at all complaining about them. They do offer to help out around the house, and they have such sweet attitudes about everything. But I do think that even great kids forget that there is a lot of work to be done around the house every day, and need a little nudge.

It's really not a lot that I'm asking of them. They'll still have plenty of time to have fun and enjoy their time off. But I did feel that I needed to establish this at the beginning of break.

So, what does this all mean for me? Well, I don't feel like the only one who never gets a vacation. I have several days away from the kitchen per week, meaning I can recharge, and am more likely to go ahead with time-consuming menu items, like the fresh pasta that I made for dinner on Wednesday. And I have time to work on Christmas gifts, decorating, baking, and the fun Christmas stuff. It means that my time is freed up a bit, to do more frugal activities around the house. In this way, my daughters' help will save us some money. And it means that I can feel good about my kids learning how to tackle various responsibilities.

Christmas break is 3  1/2 weeks long. Ask me at the end of 3 weeks how this all worked out! LOL!

How about you? Have you found some methods for training kids (younger or older) to help with household chores?


  1. My kids have their own families now, but when they were younger, my daughters lived at home while earning degrees, but my son lived away. Holiday breaks were a bit tense at first, as my son had become accustomed to setting his own rules while in the dorms. Establishing boundaries and chores early on is smart of you. You will save yourself a lot of frustration.

    1. Hi Delores,
      Thanks for the encouragement. That must have been difficult when your son returned from the dorms, at first. For myself, I remember being 18, and thinking that I was an adult, so I should be able to set my own rules. It's a fine line to walk. They are adults, and I want to respect that. But also they are living under my roof, and they need to respect that.

  2. We have a chore chart on the fridge. Works like a charm! When they moan about jobs, I just point to the chart and say "sorry, the CHART says you're supposed to do XX job".

    1. Hi,
      we did chore charts when they were younger, too. That *was* great -- using the chart to enforce jobs, instead of me nagging. The other thing that I liked about a chore chart is that they didn't need to wait for me to assign a job, but could look at the pictures (for the earliest charts I drew pictures of the jobs), or read the words and see what they needed to do.

  3. I think you are very smart to establish the rules in beginning. That way no hard feeling build up either on your side or theirs. Did you learn this lesson with your son?

    1. Hi live and learn,
      Absolutely! The first child is the "experiment". And as I get older, I feel that I am paying more attention to what bothers me, and what I'm okay with.
      Did you find that you parented better, in some areas, with son #2?

    2. I was all ready to apply the things I learned with the first one on #2, but he was an entirely different kid and many things weren't applicable. However, I wasn't quite as worried about things with the second one as I was with the first.

    3. When I was pregnant I thought about all my little issues as a child, and thought, "I know just how to handle that one". Only none of my kids ever had the same probs that I had, like thumb-sucking.

  4. The soup looks tasty! Have your daughters always like to cook? Good deal you've got, them cooking supper every night! They can come live with me anytime.

    1. Hi Tigersmom,
      I'll be spoiled for the next 3 weeks, all right!

  5. I love posts like this! I can soak in all the parenting wisdom offered by you and the commenters! :)

    My kids are 10 and 8 and I use a chore chart/morning check-off list for everything the kids need to do to be ready to leave the house for school. Like you, Lili, I find that it minimizes/eliminates the "mom nagging" factor and most mornings (we are human, after all!) go relatively smoothly. We also have them help with other chores on a more informal basis (gardening, shovelling snow, etc.). I've debated on doing a more elaborate chore chart but just haven't tackled it yet. I'm not sure how to accomplish this, but I want my kids to internalize that even though some tasks are dull, there is joy in serving others, and to learn to identify needs and help out without being prompted.

    1. Hi Kris,
      As for getting your children to act when they see a need, there's one thing that we did with my son, that I think worked in that area. Of course, I wasn't thinking that far forward at the time, but can see it in hind-sight.

      When he was about 8, I told him that I would sure appreciate it if he would take the kitchen trash out whenever he saw the kitchen trash can was full. That first week, he kept looking under the sink, checking the can. I think the trash was taken out 7 times that week! The next week, I thought to show him a line on the can that he could wait until the trash was full to, before taking the garbage out. But it did get him to take notice of things around the house. The trash was his complete responsibility, and he really savored that role.

  6. I'm still trying to figure out how to get the cats to help with the dishes... they just keep insisting that they don't like to get their paws wet! :-)

    1. Hi Cat,
      too funny! Maybe they could dry instead.
      But you have trained your cat-babies. They know to wake you at 0-dark:30, because you're such an early morning person, they know you don't want to waste those precious pre-dawn minutes.


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