Friday, March 24, 2006

The 7 worst words.

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?”


Melanie said...

I like the ice cream idea better. But it's funny how you realize he might have been doing it to spend time with you.

You are my hero for cleaning a bathroom that 11 people used.

lawnwhisperer said...

In case dad is reading, I do have plans this weekend, and next, and the one after that. Jim is apparently available if you need anything.

Anonymous said...


I always, always, always hit the bowl.

Lois Lane said...

Man sometimes I swear we were raised in the same house. Too many people, one bathroom, projects and chores same old same old. LOL!
It has been a slow blog week. Been so busy. I'm reading you over a sammich lunch. Thankfully not purple squished bread. :D
The pictures of my old man are on the blog, you just have to scroll way down.
Have a great weekend! Gooed luck in church with Max. LOL!
Lois Lane

Anonymous said...

Awww...that's a sweet way to look back on your dad!

Odd Mix said...

Ooooh! Ice Cream - ME!

And I totaly understand about spending time. You would not believe the mess a six year old can make when cooking pancakes "all by her self".


Anonymous said...


Dad didn't do those things to spend time with us. How often did he stick around? Once you had started he would be off doing something else. Although, he did assist me with the shed roof.
You and the family members know once I was 14, I strictly did the chores myself. That is because I was grounded Monday thru Sunday. However, Dad would occassionally surprise me and throw me a couple of bucks and let me out for a few hours but then I would screw up again.

Kari said...

11 kids and ice cream! Oh my, would you? It's much easier to deal with one or two and a hefty chore that he now doesn't have to do.

I love this story about your dad and how you're begining to see his side though.Very Sweet!

Tonia said...

That last line made me laugh out loud!! So true.

Nature Girl said...

I loved this story Bill! Keep 'em coming! Stacie

Meow (aka Connie) said...

That's a great story. You sound like you are doing every just right with your little man. Well done. Take care, Meow

Anonymous said...

This is probably the first story that I can relate to.
Dishes were over after you graduated High School. You had a dish "Night" I got stuck with Dishes for a week. Not to mention Jimmy was the only one left and you know he wasn't doing the dishes.
The rototilling was just Pat and I and that was probably the hardest work I've ever done, and that includes up til now.

kimmyk said...

Maybe you're right-maybe it was his way to get one on one time with each of find out what was up in your life.

i hate cleaning the bathroom and we only have 4-i can't imagine 11. and boys too! do they ever hit the hole?

Anonymous said...

We had one bathroom and many foster kids. Picture at any given time having a few toddlers scattered about the house on potties because someone needed the lone bathroom! LOL One summer we had 12 kids including the foster ones, my biological brothers, some cousins and me. ONE BATHROOM. It was pretty horrible! LOL

I am glad to hear you have him doing chores already. You are right, he won't enjoy it as much in a few years. However, sounds like you enjoy it and if you keep it fun like you are, it will make a huge difference. You sound like a very involved and patient Dad. Max has some awesome parents!!!

Lowa said...

Ok that last one was me. For some reason it labeled me as anonymous.

So this is really me!

I will say it again though. You guys are being great parents to Max and he will have a great life. We need more parents like you in this world.

Unknown said...

Great post! I hated chores, especially my dad's outdoor projects. On the plus side, he usually liked to take an ice cream break on Saturday afternoons himself! Guess I better start putting Nathan to work. Dogfood sounds like a good first chore.

Unknown said...

Oo! ME! ME! I want to go get ice cream!!!

Can we?! Can we?! Can we, huh?!

Kristie said...

my dad used the 5 minute thing too. In fact, he will still use it. Just not on us anymore. He will go up to our husbands or boyfriends when we are there and ask if they can give him a hand for 5 minutes. Suckers!! It must be a dad thing. I am sure you will do it too.

eclectic said...

I'm glad I had five minutes just now -- to read this. Well done, William, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

LizzieDaisy said...

The line over at my inlaws that I love to throw back at my father in law to make him blush is "Hold the flash light where I'M looking, not where YOU'RE looking!!!!!!" Always said when they were out working on cars apparently. Something they all dreaded. Hee.

There is nothing better than sitting around with a large family listening to their family stories. I think that's why everyone loves your blog. You'd think I'd get enough at my inlaws, but alas, I am addicted.

Thanks for the smile. Sorely sorely needed.

Unknown said...

Laughing about the building a shed from scratch in 5 mins.

My dad is famous for saying, "This took longer than I expected."

To which my mom and I always think and sometimes say, "Really?"

Anonymous said...

He simply could have said, "Your mother needs help with the laundry."..."Your mother needs help with the groceries",,,,"Your mother needs help with the baby"..."Your mother needs help with the garden." "Your mother needs help with the cleaning"... ALL SEVEN WORDS....Instead, he took you out of the house, so I could do it all by myself!!! and he had help with all his household work!! and company too.By the way, bloggers, William cleaned the bathroom on Saturdays. With 11 people using it, it had to be cleaned everyday! Who did it the other 6 days? Seven Words again!William the child is 2 years old! You NEVER cleaned the bathroom at 2. I think it was 2 and a half that we started you on the chore scene! :)

MrsDoF said...

Oh, wow, the big family stories are the best. As the oldest of 5 and overseer for the chore list, I can relate.
Aww, William, your momo9 reads your weblog. Can she give a nudge to My mother and tell her to read her daughter's weblog so that I won't have to do printouts or read it to her over the phone?

Chocolate K said...

great post!!
I run a daycare and they all seem to like to do windows......i have the cleanest windows in chicago =-)

Tammy said...

Yea, I'm liking the ice cream better too.

My baby girl helps me load and unload the dishwasher. It usually takes us about 45 minutes, but hey, I get to spend time with her.

When you get a minute (or 5) can you come to Dallas and clean my bathroom? I hate doing it.

Anonymous said...

I feel your pain, my dad worked us like pack mules on the weekends. As a result, however, I LOVE working outside and am not opposed to manual labor. That comes in quite handy.

So, ok, maybe parents do know a thing or two. Sometimes.

Effie said...

We always had our weekly chores-one of us would have to vacuum the whole house, one would do the dusting, mowing the lawn, taking out the garbage, etc.

There was also the dreaded dishes night--have you ever heard of "dishpan diarrhea"? That occured often in our household--an awful urge to go to the bathroom just at the time of the dishes...and you just happened to take awhile while the other sibling on dishes duty would slug away muttering nasty things under his or her breath...I was terribly afflicted by this disease...

Thanks for the memory!

Susie said...

This is good stuff, Bill :)

I LOVED Rototilling. Rototiller. It's even fun to SAY.