wait, a five-year-old can DO that?

I recently had the chance to take a sneak peek at GE’s new Profile washer and dryer while at the Blissdom conference. I’m not one who usually waxes on about appliances, and I’m sure you like me that way, so all I will say is this washer/dryer setup rocks and I want one.
Oh and they gave everyone who came to check them out free manicures and massages. So, there’s that. 

I was sitting next to another mom, soaking our cuticles in whatever’s in those manicure bowls, and she said she wanted this particular washer because it pre-measures detergent. You just snap one of those econo-size Tides into the bottom compartment and you don’t have to think about it for another hundred loads. (See what I mean?)

“My 5-year-old son puts too much detergent in,” she said, “so that would help.”

“You let him help you with the detergent?” I asked, smiling indulgently. “I bet he likes that.” 

“Nooo,” she responded calmly. “My 5 and 7-year-olds do all our laundry.”

My brain short-circuited.

“They… wash all the clothes?” I stammered.

She nodded.

“And you fold them?” I asked.

“No, they do,” she answered.

(shocked silence)

“I mean, every family is different,” she said, since I was clearly making her a little uncomfortable. “This is just what we do in our house–“

“Nn-no,” I interrupted her, my mouth dry. “I think that’s great. I just… had no idea that it was POSSIBLE.”

I had her walk me through it all, just to make sure I was getting it right. Her kids sort the clothes. They wash the clothes (maybe with a little too much soap; she’s not sure because she DOES NOT SUPERVISE). They dry the clothes. They fold the clothes, and put them in the laundry basket, and return them to their proper rooms.

I took over *some* of my family’s laundry when I was thirteen, and my mother had my two younger sisters eleven months apart.  I thought it was completely outrageous, at the time– like how was I supposed to manage doing laundry when I was just a KID? But I did it. And here I was finding out that I could have been put on duty a whole lot sooner.

This has forced me to reconsider my 6 and 8-year-olds’ chore load. They hang up their stuff when they get home from school, they scrape their dishes and put them in the dishwasher after dinner, and once in a while, I’ll have them do a huge Tupperware sort or something. But they don’t go near our washing machine, or our vacuum cleaner (though they do know their way around a Dustbuster). They don’t shovel the sidewalks (we live in an apartment building, so we are all off the hook there). But what else could I have them doing around the house? We’re not the Duggars; we manage without hard child labor. But maybe they should be doing it anyway. 

I’m still trying to process this idea, that my kids may be capable of a lot more than I realize– and not just around the house, either. Do your kids have responsibilities and jobs that some would consider beyond their years? 

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

tracy February 7, 2011 at 3:56 pm

seriously…??? they do the laundry?!?! how does this work? when did they start? sounds like it is not a new thing? crazy.



Karen February 7, 2011 at 4:28 pm

I still haven't been able to pick my jaw up off the floor. That mom is a serious over-achiever.

My kids (9 and 7) do things similar to yours (backpacks, dishes, etc). And we recently discussed other jobs for them like feed the dog or put out the trash cans. We keep forgetting to have them do it though and just keep doing it ourselves.

But, no. Nothing so amazing as doing the entire family's laundry.


sharon February 7, 2011 at 8:15 pm

I remember having this same kind of conversation with a girlfriend a few years ago… when she told me that her son (then 5 years old) could "scrub a mean toliet"…. and I was all "….um… what?". And she said "oh yeah, he just squirts the blue stuff in and then swishes it all around with the brush and then uses paper towels to wipe down the seat, and everything is ready to go"…… and I kind of slunked away thinking that I was such a slacker with my kids. All I expect them to do is to pick up after themselves, keep their rooms and the playroom cleaned up, help clear the table and load the dishwasher- you know, just the basics.
And after I went home and thought more about it…. they have the rest of their lives to do big-time chores. Not that I love cleaning the house all by myself (I don't!)…. but right now I am not going to expect them to take on this level of responsibility.
Now, getting them to actually put the clean clothes- away….. that's another matter. And something that I do really need to tackle with them!



Anonymous February 7, 2011 at 8:20 pm

Wow, that mom is very trusting… My mom used to let me "help" at that age, but never let me do it myself.

I don't have kids,21-year-old college student, but my mom had me and my brother take turns setting the table for dinner every night. (If I set it Monday, Ben would set it Tuesday, etc.) I probably started when I was 4-6 – I don't really remember. It's sort of a family joke,now, that my Dad forgot how to set a table because my brother and I always did it. (He set it wrong once, about 1.5-2 years ago.)

She also taught me how to do my own laundry when I was about 9, but that was all I was in charge of doing. (My brother was in charge of his own laundry too, but I think he started at 13-14. She taught us around the same time.) I think I started emptying the dishwasher, after it had been run, around age 7.

I can't remember when she started making us clean our own bathroom- probably around 8.



Courtney February 7, 2011 at 8:56 pm

Hmmm, I think that's a little much. It's one thing to teach your kids how to DO the laundry so they know how much work goes into it. I'll do my daughter's laundry as long as she wants me to while she's living in my house. Ditto what other readers have said – I know how much work it is being an adult, and I think it's ok for a kid to be a kid and not have to do their own laundry! What, should you ask your kids to make dinner every night, and then do the dishes, and then clean up the whole house, and then pay the bills, too? Grocery shop and pick up the dry cleaning? Pick out the perfect roast chicken recipe? No. Not for me, thanks. Every child should have chores, but this is expecting too much, in my opinion…


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