I can’t believe we are half way through August and winding down our summer already. Before I know it I’ll be sending the kids off on the bus again. This summer didn’t go exactly as planned, but I am glad that we are able to slow down a bit and enjoy so many new things. I wish we could take a splashy vacation or spend more time traveling, but we are more focused on projects around the home. This is what works for us this year. And even though summer is flying by, I feel like this is the most connected we have been during a summer break.
This year we included our kids in finishing our home projects. Now to be fair, we didn’t crack the whip. We let them work beside us for as long as they could focus, which isn’t super long at age 6. But they helped us for a significant amount of time and there was a good mix of play time in between all their hard work. They helped us install a pool, trim the hedges in our yard and repaint furniture. I know it may sound crazy to hand your 6 year old hedge clippers and say have at it, but that’s kind of what we did. We didn’t just give them free range we gave them a lesson first, and then hung out with them while they trimmed. Instantly, I could see their confidence soar. Knowing that we trusted them to do “grown up work” gave them a tremendous confidence boost. And by treating them like they are capable of doing things that require skill and patience, helps them see those qualities in themselves.
You are probably thinking including the kids in home projects sounds strange, or even dangerous, but it feels perfectly natural to me. I was around age 6 when I was enlisted to help paint and wallpaper in our home. By the time I was 10 I was learning to refinish furniture and how to do simple landscaping. That is what my family did for fun, we renovated together. By the time I was 19, I was so super confident in my abilities that I surprised my mother by repainting her dining room. I’ll never forget the look on her face when she came home from work and stepped into her new putrid rosy pink dining room. She tried really hard to shelter me from her horror and to look thankful, but looking back I think a small piece of her soul cracked that day. It was a horrible color, but she didn’t want to squelch my good deed. I was clearly very proud of my work. But my point is my mother gave me the space to learn new things and to practice them, even at the expense of losing the sanctity of her own space. Learning to complete these kinds of projects made me feel confident and capable. (And I think I learned a lot about color selection that day).
Working on homeowner and DIY projects with my kids helped me realize I am a good teacher, and that I can be patient. I can offer guidance without being demanding. As a mom I typically bark commands and set the rules. But home projects by nature require patience. By slowing down and taking the time to guide vs. demand really created a joyful experience. I hope when my kids look back they remember how patient I can be, and how hard I work to teach them so many different things.
My number one goal as a parent is to raise kids who become confident, self-sufficient and capable adults. So I am delighted they accepted these new challenges. Whether or not they continue to enjoy doing DIY projects when they grow up is entirely up to them. But for now, there is much deeper learning happening than learning the skill itself. Now they will get to reap the rewards of their hard work by swimming in the pool they helped build and sitting in the dining room chairs they helped paint. I hope they remember they can do anything they set their minds to; except when it comes to repainting my dining room in an unauthorized color
The Whatever Mom is a twin mom learning to let go of perfection. She shares her real life struggles with parenting through her blog and contributes her time and talents as a writer to Hudson Valley Parent and Masshole Mommy. When she isn’t writing you can find her chugging coffee, folding laundry and not judging other parents. Don’t forget to subscribe via email so you never miss a blog post again! You can also find her work featured on Mamapedia