Can I Help, Or Be Lazy?

Sometimes, my kids come up to me and say things like “What can I do?” or “How can I help?” That sounds pretty endearing, I know, but let me also provide you with a short list of things that I have told them they “can do” “to help”:

  • Put your shoes in the hallway, where the shoes and coats are.
  • Put your backpack in the hallway, where the shoes and coats are.
  • Do your homework.
  • When you are finished eating, clear your plate and rinse it off.
  • Stack your dishes with the others stacked on the counter – not in the sink.
  • Put your dirty towels in the laundry as soon as you use them, instead of on the floor in your carpeted room.
  • Put your dirty clothes in the laundry as you wear them, to ensure you always have clean clothes.
  • Pick up any trash you leave around the house.
  • Care for your pet.
  • Wash your blankets because they stink.
  • Close your window during the day when it’s above 80 degrees.
  • If you really can’t avoid soaking the floor during your shower, please at least clean it up.
  • Plunge the toilet when you clog it. Definitely DON’T NOT tell someone.
  • Go outside.
  • Fold your laundry and bring it upstairs.
  • Don’t wait until everything is done, to ask “What can I do?”

Do you think they have done any of these things, regardless of how many times I have given them these options? I’ll tell you what happens: the minute they discover something none of us have done, they turn an annoyed eye at me, and say “You didn’t save the leftovers!” That’s when I say “Well, technically, none of us saved the leftovers. If YOU had saved them, there would be some, but I don’t see any.”
Or when they come downstairs in some ridiculous outfit, and try to tell me they have no clean clothes, like I’m supposed to feel some sort of blame for that. My kids differ in this situation, in a very funny way. My daughter will say “I don’t care if my shirt is dirty,” but my son will pretend like he’s had an aha moment, and run upstairs to change into that shirt he “just remembered” he had. Of course, that shirt is also wrinkled, and probably smells like his bedroom. He comes downstairs looking worse than when he went up there, and presents his new get-up with what I can only describe as an expectation of some rather impressed nodding.
I remember when I was their age(s). I didn’t care about much, but I also didn’t have cool parents living in my house, trying to hang out with me all the time and do fun stuff. I guess it doesn’t matter what approach you take; things will go the way nature wants them to, and your kids will ask you “What can I do to help?” when what they really mean is “How can I make you think I’m responsible, but still actually be lazy?” If they only knew how many times I have felt like asking them that same question.