how family work looks in my house (and sounds…don’t forget the sound)

 Yesterday’s post was primarily for me . I needed to read that article again and remind myself  that it IS worth it to involve the children in work.  *I* needed the reminder.  Frequently the rewards are so few and far between and vague. They seem so small.

Here is what it looks like in our house: after  family devotional we explained to everyone that the missionaries were coming over for dinner and we wanted to clean up.  Every room in the house would be vacuumed.  (groan, “MOM”). We told them we wanted everything done by 5pm.   At this point, everyone disappears except for my 11yo son who figures he might get an extra computer turn if he works this right.  He did. 

In the afternoon when Chris went around to every room to gather the troops, there was the normal huffing and puffing and pleas to finish their chapter first. One little girl, the same one who refused to wear green and dared people to pinch her, chose to hide.  The 13yo negotiated with her dad for extra help because the biggest mess in the room she was assigned to clean was from his picture hanging marathon.  The 14yo went for the “I cleaned the mess *I* made” defense.  The 7yo tries to either disappear or play so nicely with the little ones that we won’t bother him.  The 9yo went for shock and horror at the enormity of her job, then settled down and did a great job…actually everyone did their job well in the end.  It’s just that sometimes the end is only after the third walk through by me.  I really believe a line I heard at education week once: “you get what you inspect not what you expect”. 

While I was sweeping the kitchen floor I heard a telltale sound then a ding…the 7yo had decided to make popcorn…because for sure that’s perfect when we’re cleaning everything up.  There ended up being enough popcorn on the floor that the youngest 4, not counting the baby, each picked up 20 pieces.

We sometimes sing, or frequently have music…it’s just that some of the time I’m singing  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pb2si7fClqA   (“Happy working Song” from Enchanted) But it might as well be http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YdXQJS3Yv0Y (“Where there’s a whip, there’s a way” from Return of the king) for the reaction of my children and the indignant “MOMMMMM!” Of course if there’s too much whining there is likely to be some opera singing. 

In my experience, real “Family Work” moments are amazing, but subtle.  It’s just that those amazing moments seldom come at the beginning when they are whining and anticipating the horror of having to work, and the horror of being assigned more work for whining.  In the end…there is frequently spotty grumpiness and reminder of child labor laws.  In the middle though.  Sometimes in the middle of a big family work there are times when the children are…smiling.  I overhear conversations between children who don’t normally talk much (like 14yo dd and 11yo ds).  A child sees a captive audience (me washing dishes, or husband taking the vacuum apart) and starts talking. Someone comments on how much progress we’ve made and how nice it looks.  Sometimes we do sing.  At these times it resonates “THIS IS WHY WE WORK”! 

It’s just that those times are frequently interrupted by “Hannah’s going into the bathroom!” or “Becca won’t do her job” or “my job is bigger than her job” or “MOM! someone made a mess in my room!” or “Its MY turn to hold the baby”. 

I’ve also noticed that we need to have a long enough job to get this feeling.  If we have a quick 15 minute pickup..there is unity (and whining), and a sense of accomplishment…and they do all disappear afterwards and become more creative, but I frequently wonder if that is just so I don’t get the grand idea of another work party.  To get the conversation and positive feeling there has to be enough real work for there to be a middle…a we’re in the grove and working so we might as well stop complaining.  A this isn’t as bad as we thought it would be and we’re having fun talking and throwing socks at each other.

It may or may not be true that I sometimes invite people over or invent a party (the famous “dad is getting his master’s degree in 200 days” party comes to mind) so that we have extra motivation to clean.  I also invent deadlines.  They do need to be somewhat real..we do need to plant the garden in time for a good harvest, but the exact day I sometimes make up–or frequently our schedule dictates.

I’ve also noticed that family work on a daily basis is just a part of our routine and thus gets less whiny attention.  It may not always be long enough to have a family work sweet spot, but it does set a good tone, get the work done and get us all together working to support our family.  Daily work always stimulates play and creativity.  There is power in these regular little jobs, though it is in forming of unconscious rhythms of working hard together.  I have noticed that over the course of the week there are family work moments.

Reading the Family Work article didn’t automatically turn our home into a wonderful workshop of joy, but it did open my eyes to the incredible benefits of working together in the home.  It helps me recognize those amazing moments and gives me motivation to involve children on a daily basis when it always feels it would be easier to just get the job done. I frequently need to relearn the truth that “Getting the job done” isn’t what I’m after anyway.   I am still learning lesson number one.

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