Our children’s school principal always takes advantage of our monthly PA meetings to offer those gathered some parenting wisdom. This might be obnoxious if it wasn’t always such good advice, and usually easy to adopt. (I should be reading my children The Complete Works of Beatrix Potter? Done.)
But then there was last week. “This morning I want to talk about making beds,” the principal told us all. “If your children aren’t making their own beds, they should start immediately.” This because she had just met a Navy Seal who told her that all Navy Seals make their beds upon awaking, as a matter of course. No matter what happens with the rest of your day, he told her, when you go home, at least you’ve gotten one thing done. Our principal put a more positive spin on it for us parents: if our children started with that concrete success as soon as they woke up, she reasoned, how could more successes not quickly follow?
Happiness guru Gretchen Rubin apparently knows this same Navy Seal (or else all Navy Seals believe this) and on her blog, she doubles down on bed-making and its benefits. Making a bed, Gretchen claims, not only brings more order to life- it actually makes the bed-maker happier. In Gretchen’s words:
People tell me a million things they’ve done, but to my astonishment, the one resolution that comes up the most often — and this isn’t the most significant thing you could do to boost your happiness, but it does seem to be the thing that people most often try, and that does work — is to make your bed.
Talk about astonishment. It never occurred to me that a made bed could make someone actually feel better. I mean, sure, in a hotel– but that’s because someone else is doing it. There, a made bed indicates luxury above the ordinary, being taken care of, being on vacation from the regular.
But for me, in my own home, my unmade bed is itself the perfect sign of higher productivity, proof that I did something with my child-free hours besides putter around the house.
Perhaps a made bed brings you happiness only if you’re a hospital-corners type of person. Which come to think of it, I sort of am, but apparently only where people can see me.
Back to the kids: I’m pretty sure making my kids make their beds won’t make them happy either– quite the opposite. But maybe it shouldn’t. Maybe I’m supposed to make my kids make their beds because it seems like a waste of time. There is something Sisyphean about making a bed; as every child ever has protested, you’re only going to un-make it approximately 14 hours later, so what’s the point? Perhaps order for order’s sake is the point. And I do like order. (I’m a Virgo.)
But made beds aren’t the sort of order I have ever prioritized. I care about my kids cleaning up the crap they dump in the front hall every day when they get home from school. I care about my kids clearing the table and loading the dishwasher after dinner so that I don’t have to clean up after them, care about their dirty clothes making it from the bathroom floor to their respective hampers. What their beds look like in their rooms is something I usually leave up to them.
So I’m wondering: do you make your kids make their beds?
Does it count more than other chores? Is it a must-do on the road to general non-brattiness?
And might it make my kids– and me– happier?