I want to teach my child to be...

I talk a lot on this blog about things that I try to teach my son: cooking, healthy living, to be a nice person and safety. Like most parents, I have this list in my head of important life lessons I want to pass down to him.

What I didn't realize is that almost all parents have one lesson at the top of their list: Responsibility.

A recent Pew Research study reveals that most parents, despite differences in ethnicity, income and politics, all want to raise a child that others can count on. Being a hard worker and helping others rounded out the top three traits we want for our children.

That's great to know, but how do we develop those skills in our children? Here are a few tips that have worked for us so far.
  • Let them do it. When my son makes his own sandwich for lunch, he tells me that it tastes better. Yes, it takes him twice as long and there is a mess that he has to clean up, but he's learning to do things for himself. This is great, because I don't ever want him to call me at work during his teenage years to tell me he is hungry.
  • Make it part of the routine. My son has certain tasks (getting dressed, brushing teeth, packing book bag) that he has to accomplish in the morning. Once he does those, he has free time to play before school. He learns to get himself ready, and I'm free to do my own chores in the morning.
  • Involve them. Chores are a family matter. My son was super excited the first time I asked him if there was anything he needed from the grocery store. He actually thought about it for a while before telling me he thought he was low on toilet paper. I showed him where we keep the spare rolls. He takes my question seriously, which means that he is thinking about our family as a team.
  • Communicate the rules clearly. This is one we need to work on in my family. We need to keep the rules consistent and clear. It's no fair to keep changing the rules of the game without letting everyone know.
What about in your household? Do you have any tips to add to the list to develop responsibility? Tell me in the comments. 

Taking a page out of a millennial's book

A few weeks ago, my son and I went through his bookshelf. We pulled out all the books that he identified as "baby books," and ones that he didn't want to read. My little guy can read lots of words by himself now, and although he hasn't moved on to reading himself full books yet, I want his shelves to be ready for him. So, we said good-bye to the "I Love Daddy Because" or "Count to 10" books and took them to our second-hand bookshop.

I love bookshops...not bookstores, but small bookshops. They smell like paper and the shelves are a mess and if you have the time, you could easily lose a day there. As a parent I don't have that kind of time, but I did zip through the children's section and pick up a few new stories for my son.

Every night before bed, he and I read together. It's one of my favorite parts of the day. He goes to the library with me on weekends and we pick out new books to try. He complains that my books don't have any pictures. We are a book family.

And we're not alone. The lovely folks at Pew Research completed a study concerning library use which found that millennials are a book-loving bunch. It turns out that 88% of Americans under the age of 30 have read a book in the past year, compared with 79% of people older than 30. (This data kinds of puts my 100 book challenge in a completely different perspective for me.) But that news is encouraging as well. I want my son to grow up within a world of books.

So, we'll keep visiting our library and our second-hand book store. I admit that occasionally, I think about getting a Kindle or other device to have access to more books. But then I can't get over blue light or the loss of paper and the feel of a book in my hands.

What can I say? I'm old school. What's the last great book that you would recommend to a friend? Share with me in the comments.

Stay out of my kitchen

I like to cook. It is one of those skills I came by through watching my mother (thanks, Mom) and with a lot of practice in making meals when I was younger. It is something that I enjoy, find challenging and try to share with my son.

When I'm just making a regular dinner on a weeknight, however, I want everyone to stay out of the kitchen.

I didn't know why this was. I mean, we have a nice large kitchen with lots of counter space, so I am not cramped. But, if I am cooking dinner after work, I prefer everyone to be out of the room.

Then I read this article on mise-en-place and it all made sense: I want you out of my kitchen because you make me feel unorganized.

The practice of mise-en-place is the almost military precision of chefs to have their ingredients and tools on hand, and their steps so well organized that they could preform them while blindfolded. It's kind of like when you watch the Food Network shows and everything is pre-chopped and pre-measured and all the chef/host has to do is add the amounts to the pans and stir - that staging is part of mise-en-place. When someone is in my kitchen with me, I have to work around them. And I don't like navigating around people while trying to remember my next steps.

Wait a minute. Did you just hear that? I think that was a gasp of joy from my mother, because being the amazing cook that she is, she is probably excited that I've come across this topic. In fact, she probably has a book on mise-en-place for me to read.

But back to that link: The NPR piece on the topic doesn't just apply to cooking, it discusses chefs who are applying the concept to their lives. And I can get on board with that.

My life is made up of routines. They can be flexible, yes, but for the most part, my morning routine, bedtime routine and night routines are the same. I know what I will be doing and that predictability is comforting.

Turns out that it is comforting for children, too. So even when I have to tell my son what the plan is going to be every night (even when it hasn't changed in years), he takes comfort in knowing the next steps, the next ingredients.

These days, my life is all about order from chaos. And getting more sleep. And getting dinner on the table every night. (And, seriously, having people stay out of my kitchen.)

Do you like company while you cook or do you need to focus? Tell me in the comments.

Looking for room(s) to spare

Sometimes I ask my son about the house he would like to live in one day. He tells me that he wants a big backyard with a fence to keep him safe (that's my guy!), lots of good sidewalks for riding bikes, a slide instead of a stairway (don't ask) and three rooms just for him.

That last part makes me laugh: He wants one room for his bed, and two for just toys.

In our current home, we have a "family room." This is different than the living room. Toys are not supposed to be in the living room. (Side note: Sorry, Mom, for all those times I dragged toys into the living room of your house on Saturday mornings.) Our family room contains the bulk of our books, lots of my son's toys, a desk for him and my desk. It's a wonderful space for him to play and for me to still be nearby when he needs me. And, honestly, it's my favorite room in the house.

So, it interested me to learn that parents in the U.K. are giving up master bedrooms to their children because they want them to have more space to stretch out, play or study. Part of me understands these parents' desires: I want my son to have plenty of space to play without feeling like he is confined. But I'm not ready to give up the master suite yet.

For now, I am happy that we are able to give our son his own room and that we have a spare room in our house for us to share. This is for several reasons:
  • Since he is sibling-free, I want him to know what it is like to share a room. He can't kick me out of the family room. It's our shared space.
  • As mentioned above, the shared room keeps toys out of the living room and makes our home look neater overall (or so I like to think).
  • I can still send him to his bedroom when he needs to calm down a bit.
I know that lots of adults would love a room of their own (hence the rise of the man cave and men in a room by themselves.) Do you have your own separate space in your home? What do you use it for? Tell me all about it in the comments.