Niagara Gazette

March 31, 2013

CRIB NOTES: Kids ... more useful once they're big enough to carry things

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Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — Food shopping in our household is usually an enjoyable enough experience. We fulfill the list, buy a few (or 20) fun add-ons and enjoy any samples that may be available.

But the thing about buying hundreds of dollars’ worth of groceries is, hundreds of dollars’ worth of groceries need to get from the car to the house. The trip is long, but it is wearisome when you make while carrying a hundred pounds of crud 25 times.

And putting the stuff away? Let’s just say I never start the chore intending to be a ramshackle stacker of supplies, but I often end up being one.

Our most recent trip was one during which we flexed particular purchasing power. How we even spent $500 on a trip to the store that didn’t involve buying a new TV is beyond me.

But anyway, spending that much meant the van was at capacity. I’m pretty sure the new outdoor broom might have accidentally tapped Rigby in the head a time or two.

I was taking the kids out to let them go inside and play before bed like they normally do post-shopping. Penny perplexed me when she stopped me halfway to the house.

“Daddy? Can I help you take some groceries in?”

“Sure,” I said with a trepidation that comes with utter shock. So, kids can help do chores? And they enjoy it?

I know, of course, they can and do in time. But at ages 5 and 4, Penny and Rigby need to be cajoled into many basic tasks around the house. The Rigger Man still tries to get me to reclothe him after using the bathroom. So getting them to help on nonessentials seemed to be a bit away still.

I reached for two things I thought were light enough for her to carry. She confidently put them in one arm.

“Give me more,” she commanded.

I did so, while reminding her to say please. We dropped the stuff off in the kitchen and raced back to the van. Somehow she was able to beat me (I won’t have to let her beat me much longer).

She wanted four things this time instead of three. I was happy to comply.

She could not figure out how to open the door with both hands full. I told her to watch and learn a trick for doing so, and her response made me laugh out loud: “Oh, Daddy, everybody tells me that!” We ran through the “balance-the-pile-on-the-railing-as-it-leans-on-you” trick a few times before making deposit No. 2 in the kitchen.

As she beat me in another race to the van, two thoughts hit me. First, I was actually having fun. Fun unloading groceries. And so was she. Who knew this was possible?

That led to the second thought. I wonder if I can get the kids to help me more often. I envision myself resting in a hammock in my backyard while Penny mows the lawn and Rigby whacks the weeds around the fence.

Mua ha ha!

This won’t be the case, of course, if for no other reason than I don’t have two backyard trees from which to hang the hammock. But I won’t seriously make them take on that much responsibility.

Yet.

Let’s face it. Completing chores is a necessary way to show children the value of work. They need to realize laundry doesn’t fold itself and food doesn’t magically walk out of the freezer and deliciously wind up on a plate without some effort.

But also, from a completely selfish standpoint, it’s just plain easier once they start helping out with the workload. I may have to cart groceries into the house every trip to the store and rake leaves every fall. But I don’t want to. I don’t like to. And having them do some of it makes my life a bit easier.

I may be the first parent to say this out loud, but I know most of you have thought this.

Her help continued with the sorting and packing away process. In fact, she insisted I wait until after her bath to complete the process to allow her assistance. She didn’t know where most things went, but it was fun enough showing her and watching her improvise (although moist bathroom wipes in the freezer might prove problematic when they’re needed).

My put-away time was cut by about a quarter. But that wasn’t the best part about working with Penny on this latest round of groceries. Granted, her help saved me three or four trips. But seeing her persevere with the bulk package of canned chicken, eventually getting it on the counter, was a great moment of pride. And having a chore made into a game — a unique trait of childhood — was pretty cool, too.

But if I convert my children into a small army to do my bidding, that won’t be all bad, either.

Contact Paul Lane at pjlnews@ymail.com.