As the girls have got bigger I’ve always tried to involve them in what I’m doing around the house. Kitty dropped her nap just after she turned two and then Elma followed a similar path, so it’s been a while since there’s been a distinct ‘nap time’ in this house that I could use to run around to do the chores, or even just sit down for a minute by myself. And even when I have occasionally had two of the three snoozing at the same time, I always want to take the chance to have a little one on one time with whoever is left awake, not immediately abandon them in search of the loo cleaner.
So we do chores together. I wash up, Kitty dries the cutlery and Elma puts it away, both girls fight to be the one to clean the loo because the magic toilet brush makes it change colour, and they’re my best helpers sorting out the dried laundry into the baskets for each of us. It sounds like slave labour I know, but honestly truly they love it. I think they just take a huge satisfaction out of doing real meaningful work. Most of their play at this age is copying the things they’ve seen in their day to day life or their Sunday film, so it makes sense that doing the things they play, only this time for real, is even better. I don’t make them help, I ask and if they say no then I leave it at that, but we do make it all fun, we take it in turns to choose the music or what we’re going to sing and generally we all end up together anyway.
I’m hoping that if I can get them into the pattern of helping out now, just because that’s what we all do, then it might continue on a little longer into childhood, maybe, possibly even as teenagers – mothers who have walked this path before me, tread softly, you tread on my dreams!
So far, it’s all going well, well actually that’s a bit of an understatement, because this week, the girls showed me what they really can do. One of their first ever jobs was to help me pull the wet laundry out of the washing machine, as anyone with a toddler knows, it’s less a job and more just what happens when you open the washing machine door in their presence, and recently I’ve been able to ask the girls to empty the machine between them and bring the basket out to me in the garden where I’ll be taking in the dried laundry that’s already there. Until one day when Pip, umm, needed to be attended to in the vicinity of the changing mat and he and I headed for the stairs while the girls were still filling the basket.
And a couple of minutes later, as Pip and I walked into the garden, there, in full view, in daylight, large as life, were two laundry fairies.
I quite often use the top of the slide to balance the laundry basket when I’m pegging out but Kitty had pulled it underneath the washing line and was stood at the top, reaching up to peg a sock on the line, while Elma untangled clothes and handed them up. And from the look of the washing line they’d clearly managed to get quite a few things up to dry before we arrived.
It was one of those moments of such sisterly harmony that I almost didn’t want to breathe for fear of disturbing the moment, not to mention the fact that they were doing a pretty good job with the washing. But Pip squeaked in delight at seeing his sisters and the spell was broken. So we finished it all together.
And it was a different sort of reminder of just how big my girls are getting. I see it so often when I look at how tall Kitty is, or I hear it when I’m chatting to Elma and I realise that she can say her sister’s full name now, but the getting bigger is so much more obvious than the gradual acquisition of skill, and it’s the latter that really hammers it home. The girls can hang the washing out, what else are they going to turn out to be able to do?