Determined to take my house back at the beginning of 2016, I wrote a letter to my daughters highlighting expectations about their contributions around the house and answers to their questions of "my friends don't have to do any chores, why do I?" My husband suggested I post the letter as a blog, because surely we aren't alone in our parenting fails/insecurities/worries. I'd love to know what others are doing to prepare their kids for life.
One thing I've noticed that my kids respond to is frank conversations about life. My life: past, present and future. Their lives: past present and future. They like to hear that I wasn't perfect as a teenager and that I've flunked a test before. They need to know that when they become adults, they will struggle, make mistakes and have fears...and that it's perfectly normal. Oftentimes we shield our kids by presenting this seamless utopia of adulthood when we should be letting them see how we mucked something up or stood tall (or didn't) in the face of adversity or that we worked through something that was really, really hard and it made us stronger.
I'm not saying tell your kids everything...no...that would be bad. But if our kids see the adults in their lives being vulnerable and transparent, won't that give them a better chance of being vulnerable and transparent too?
Before I digress any further and forget about the topic at hand...the letter.
Disclaimer: I do not fancy myself a parenting expert. At all. I'm more of a parenting student. Some days I skip class, while others I'm on the dean's list. Most days are somewhere in between.
Sydney and Avery,
I wanted to write this all down so I could get my point across completely and fully, and also so you would have the opportunity to process my words before we talk about them.
I have been very frustrated lately, as I’m sure you’ve noticed, about the effort and care you put into doing chores, taking care of your personal items, and our home. I also feel badly that Dad and I have done a poor job teaching you the skills you need to manage your use of technology. It’s quite possible that we didn’t clearly lie out our expectations, and that is on us, not you.
Going forward, our expectations should be very clear to you. If they aren’t, please ask questions to clarify.
When you are asked to do a chore, we expect that you will do it to the best of your ability. We want you to take pride in your work. I know you think it’s silly to take pride in vacuuming or wiping off the kitchen table, but it’s more than a clean floor or table to us. We ask you to give your best because nurturing this habit now will pay off in incredible ways throughout your life. How? By simply doing things properly and with care, you will earn the respect of your peers. I'm telling you, people will take notice. You'll be considered for privileges that others won’t. You'll know how to do things that will allow you independence. All because you took the time to do something right the first time around. It matters.
You are fortunate to have nice things. Take a moment and think about this. All of the clothes, trinkets and technology that have been entrusted to you are enormous blessings. We expect that you'll take care of what you've been blessed with. You wanted, and in some cases, begged, for some of these things, and when we see them crumpled in a heap on the floor it’s very disappointing. You send a message every time you toss your coat, backpack and/or socks (oh, the socks!) on the floor that you don't appreciate what you have. I want you to develop an awareness that you have more than most kids in the world. No, it doesn't always feel that way, but it's a true statement.
I want you to think about why it's easy to not take care of your belongings.
Did you think having X, Y or Z would change things somehow and make you feel like a better version of yourself? It's a trap and a lie that we tell ourselves and it never works out...in which case it makes sense to me why there are things on the floor. They weren't as satisfying as you thought they'd be. Be honest with yourself about your motives in wanting things. The longer you ignore those motives, the harder they are to face. Trust me, I know this firsthand.
The other message you send when you leave piles of your stuff throughout the house is that you don’t respect our home or the efforts that have been made to make it a nice home for our family.
Time, effort and planning have gone into creating an environment for you two to flourish and grow into who you were meant to be. We work hard (happily), to make this happen. We open our doors to your friends so you all have a safe place to be teenagers. You have done a wonderful job picking your friends, by the way, and we love when you are all here.
It's our expectation that you will use technology as a tool to further your education, to communicate appropriately with your friends, and as entertainment. We like watching funny things on YouTube, too. We totally get it. You may watch one hour of Netflix or non-homework related shows/videos, etc… per day. And not in your bedroom. I know this is unpopular, but this is one of those times when you have to trust that we have your best interest at heart. Think about your 80-year-old self, looking back on your life. Will she be bitter that she didn’t get to spend more time scrolling through other people’s experiences, or will she be satisfied with her own? We only get one shot at life, and to waste it is a shame. These are the things that everyone who spends time on technology needs to consider, not just you. So please spend some time considering it.
We also expect that all technology will be charged at night in the charging station in the family room, including weekends. At your ages, your sleep is so important, and we love you enough to accept that you'll be mad about this. If you can continue this habit of unplugging in college and beyond, you'll be amazed at how much freer you will feel than your peers, who are slaves to their technology. It might not seem like a gift, to have you relinquish control of your devices at night, but it is. We want you to enjoy your own company. Being alone with nothing to entertain you enables you to think your own original thoughts. It gives your mind the opportunity to wander. When was the last time you sat comfortably without a device, just waiting for someone or something?
I read an article recently that tracked a group of over achievers (like you two) who were expected to impact their chosen fields in big ways after they graduated from college. But they didn't. They ended up being good at their jobs, successful even, but they didn't make the splash they were predicted to make. Why? Because their free-thinking and creativity were never developed. They missed reaching their potential because they weren't intentional about flexing the part of their brain that goes dormant when mindless scrolling occurs. Important: this is not pressure to go cure cancer or end world hunger; it’s simply something that I want you to think about. Think about how you spend your time. Be proud of how you spend your time.
Dad and I don't expect you to be perfect. Ever.
We expect that you will try your hardest and give your best in every situation. And be kind. That’s it.
It’s our job to prepare you for life, and our vision is to launch you off into the world as independent thinkers, problem solvers, and capable young women who are kind and fun lovers of life. Fast forward to the day you go off to college or move into your first place. As you sit inside those four walls, what kind of young woman have you become? Write it down and let’s talk about what you need to do now to turn that into reality. It won't just happen...it will take work. Work that you are both capable of doing. I think you are worth it. Do you?
Love you so, so much,