The Life is a Chore podcast episode got me all hot and bothered. Hot and bothered not only about the need to and value of implementing a chore system in my own household, but also about my personal experience with chores and how I have fared as an adult as a result of said chores. I received a solid “chore education” in areas like lawn care, car cleaning and light housework, but came up short in several others that only became apparent to me in adulthood.
My mom was an awesome cook. My dad couldn’t make a sandwich. I remember learning how to scramble an egg in college my junior year, shocked at how easy and magical it was. Eggs still blow my mind, but I digress. It’s never too late to learn how to cook, and today I am serviceable in the kitchen, but learning basic knife skills and food handling as a child would have been useful. On a more sentimental note, I’ve missed out on the opportunity to learn how to cook childhood favorites from the master herself. That’s a waste. Those recipes deserve to live on.
When I say “tree trimming”, I’m not talking about trimming the Christmas tree with ornaments and tinsel. I’m referring to cutting off branches. Unless you live in a concrete jungle, trees are a fact of life. Another constant about trees is that they will grow. When they grow they crowd your lawn, damage your roof, etc. Yet anytime I need to have a tree trimmed, I panic and end up calling a tree trimming service. It’s as if every tree in my yard is a tree of life from Game of Thrones, and any miscalculation with my saw will damn Bran for eternity. Oh wait, Bran is already damned for eternity. Like cooking, tree trimming is something that can be learned, yet my confidence will take years to develop.
Changing the Oil
Maybe someday we’ll own cars that don’t require oil, until then I’m at a Jiffy Lube every five to ten thousand miles. How much money have I wasted over the years on oil changes? The ability to change the oil, and perform basic car maintenance, is a survival skill of which I have limited capability. Beyond the practicality of being able to change your own oil, there is an immediate respect that comes with this particular skill. When someone is described as “a person who changes the their own oil”, we universally consider them a cut above the rest of us.
If you’ve read my blog entry S#%t Storm, you know that toilets in my house take a beating. If you have kids, I’m guessing that your toilets do too. I’ve become deft at plunging, I do a decent job at flapper adjustment and I recently did my first full valve transplant. While I’ve learned and become competent, it would have helped to have stepped into family life with a strong foundation of toilet 101. Unfortunately, I flushed that opportunity down the proverbial drain.
The stakes are high when you get into the electrical components of your home. If trimming trees causes me panic, electrical flat out terrifies me. Touch the wrong wire, even the right way, and it could suck the paint off your house and give your family a permanent orange afro…to quote Dan Akroid in Spies Like Us. When would a moron like me need to get into the electrical of my house? One example is the smoke detector, which presented me with an array of wires when I got cocky and tried to replace it on my own. Horrified, I had to call in an electrician to connect my new detector. As I watched the professional install the detector in two minutes flat, “self loathing” would be an accurate description of how I felt.
Painting and Wood Repair
I have been presented with two significant painting opportunities since owning a home, both of which have been fails on my part. In the first instance, my eight month pregnant wife painted the nursery for our upcoming arrival? Why did she do it instead of me? Because her dad taught her how to paint when she was a child. The second instance occurred when I attempted to repaint a bathroom wall after patching some holes with plaster. While not Michelangelo, my plaster work was serviceable. My painting sucked, however, and was only truly remediated after a full bathroom remodel.
So There You Have It
So there you have it, some critical skills areas where I come up short that could have been addressed during my childhood chore routine. Can I teach my kids to be better than I am? Perhaps. Will they even need these skills given advancements in technology? Maybe I need to teach them how to code? Crap, I didn’t learn that either!
Of note, make chores gender neutral. Teach your boys how to cook, and your girls how to rewire your house. It would probably also be of value to buy each of your children their own tool kit. Good tools last a lifetime, and just might inspire some home DIY experimentation that serves them well for years to come.