Everybody Chipping In


For a lot of families the challenge is to find an activity or entertainment that is fun for the entire family.  And the task is often complicated when there is a wide disparity between the ages of the children.   Candy Land probably isn’t going to entertain a 15 year old boy who would much rather be playing at his video game and Monopoly is just beyond the 4 year old.   Before cell phones, before video games, before board games, before television and before radio people played games people entertained themselves in a variety of ways.

In the Victorian Era going for a walk or a stroll was the rage.  Nobility in Britain and the rich of the United States and other countries in the West strutted their stuff on the Avenue.  Whether it was in a local public garden, at a large market area, or just down the street in the neighborhood, people put on their best and went for a stroll.   Picnics in parks were very popular as well.  Youngsters were able to play on the equipment while older children could have their snowball fights off to the side.  Parents watched young adults as they went through the early stages of courting.  Sounds so quaint doesn’t it?  Works great if the lights are off and you can convince folks to go outside.

Winter is coming and with the change of season for many of us our recreational pursuits will change.  Bicycle rides will come to an end for the season, tricycles will be hung by their handlebars, camping gear will be carefully stowed for easy access for camping season come next spring.  Now that winter approaches, how do you get everyone out of their individual rooms and into the family room or living room to do some of that great bonding that families do?

We forget that in days past lifestyles were much different.  Even at a young 53 (Hey! it’s my age and I’m stickin’ to the young part) I have seen considerable change in American society.  However, maybe there are some things from the “good old days” that we could learn from.  The Duggar family is great in showing America one thing…a family that works together and helps each other…each with their own task…prospers.

The Duggars set a great example for familial pitching in.  While not all of us  have a crew of 19 or more to work with, the  theory that each contribute at their own way.  Little ones can at least carry the napkins to the table…even if there are only two of you there.   That could be two trips.   A three year old tends to be a little more concerned about the table when they have helped to make it nice.  Teens may even *gasp* enter into a conversation about the meal they helped cook.  A pre-teen can puff with pride when told that they did a great job setting the table.

It may be difficult, but you can create this scenario just by doing that.  Expect you children to help you.  You’ll be surprised how they glow when you tell them they haven’t only met your expectations, they have exceeded them!  However, don’t make it a trauma event.  Have a family meeting, or whatever your style is, and warn folks in advance.  Explain that you need help and that you are going to be expecting more of all them – but that you are sure they’ll be able to handle it.  Then…put it all on the line – realizing you are going to meet resistance, but work through that and prove that it can be fun.

Oh yes, I know the resistance a teenager can give…we moved our daughter from Alaska to Montana at the delicate age of 13…resistance I understand.  But pushing through that and having the positive experience is exactly the bonding I’m talking about here.

We used to call it the wisdom of the woodpile (everyone worked together to cut, haul, split, stack, move, the wood to stay warm, sharing the challenges), but woodpiles are rare in other parts of the country.  if you don’t have a woodpile, you do have a house.  Helping prepare the evening meal as a family together not only connects but it teaches as well.   Once a month everyone chips in on Saturday morning to do a deep clean on the house.  Little ones can help carry paper towels, age appropriate are vacuums, little ones are great at holding dust pans or helping to carry a piece or two of laundry.  (I have many fond memories of my daughter following me down the stairs, picking up the socks that fell from the laundry basket while telling me “I dgot dit Mom!”)  Teens can man vacuums and help move furniture to get underneath.  Windows a couple times a year are important too.

The point is that children feel more connected with the family of which they are a part if there are shared experiences that help develop a strong bond for the family.  Does it sometimes take extra work on the part of the parent – yup!  That’s why the adults are the parents.  *smile*  But, I know that once you get it going, once you make the effort to put your shoulder to the rock and give it a good shove, you find that other family members are getting behind the rock with you and pushing too.  Chipping in and pushing to help.  Show them where and show them how and they will move the world to help you…why?  Because you made sure the teach them how to chip in.


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