Maxfield helps us out around the house. He does not have set chores,, but as we do miscellaneous projects we ask him to pitch in. He does an excellent job of overfilling the Luna’s (our dog) food bowl. He has a special knack for emptying the dishwasher one spoon at a time. He does a fine job watering the plants and the front porch and our shoes and everything else that may be within a ten-yard radius of the flowerpots. And most recently he has developed an appreciation of spackling the walls in our living room. It is always fun to watch him enjoy his work and I know it is only a matter of a few years when that enjoyment will disappear, so right now, I don’t mind that a project that should only take a few minutes take 20 times longer.
While growing up, my brothers, sister and I all had weekly chores. They were divided up by age/skill appropriate chores. For instance, once you were twelve years old your weekly chore was to mow the yard. (I lucked out because the Lawnwhisperer enjoyed cutting the grass so much, he kept that chore up until he was at least 16. Since he is a year older than me I skipped the whole lawn-cutting chore). I always volunteered to clean the bathroom. We only had one (Yes there was 11 of us in the house with one bathroom). It usually only took me a half hour to do every Saturday, where other chores could take hours to do on the weekend. Along with the regular chores, we all had a Dish Night. Each of us had a specific night that was our night to do the dishes. Sunday night was the worst one to have because that was always the big meal night (lots of pots and pans). The rest of the week consisted of leftovers from Sunday or simpler meals, so those nights were easier.
Besides the weekly chore and dish night there were always other projects that my dad had us working on. One of the worst things that my dad could ever say to one us, the 7-word phrase that could doom us was “I need five minutes of your time.” (Or the same thing in a question.) “Can I borrow you for five minutes?”
“Sure.” We always responded because there really was not the option of saying “No.”
I know it does not sound that bad. 5 minutes. No big deal. Right?
Never in the history of my family did any task that started with that statement take any less than 2 hours. My dad was skilled at disguising the biggest projects as a five- minute favor. He planned to build a shed from scratch in those five minutes. He figured we could clean the entire basement ceiling to floor in those five minutes. He believed that one 12-year-old kid could Rototill the entire property, front and back yards, in 5 minutes.
Once we got into our teens he slowly changed the way he asked us for help. He would casually say to one or more of us, as if he was really interested, “Do you have any plans this weekend?” (Please note 7 words again). And whoever responded with “Nothing” He would then say “I could use your help on Saturday” (7 words.) We would be stuck cleaning out gutters for a few hours because we did not think of something to do on the weekend.
It is funny how all of this comes around full circle. I know feeding the dog should only take a few seconds but I don’t mind working with Max as he places the food into the bowl one piece at time. It is time that I get to spend with him. It is a time I get to show him new things. I wonder if that is how my father felt. Would he make the five-minute projects longer so we would spend more time with him? Was he just trying to get us out of our mother’s hair?
If he was doing it for those reasons, I never really did appreciate it until now. But I also realize he simply could have said, “Who wants to go get ice cream?”