My Twins Spoiled? Who Has the Time

Recently, The New Yorker magazine published a piece called, Spoiled Rotten: Why Do Kids Rule the Roost? The title pretty much sums up the article—writer Elizabeth Kolbert examines why so many American parents do just about everything for their children from household chores to tying their shoes. The result? By indulging our children and expecting so little of them when they’re young, she speculates, we’re creating a nation of future incompetent grown ups stuck in “adultescence.”

Kolbert is a great writer, comparing our culture with others that parent differently to us. For instance, tribes in the Peruvian Amazon not only encourage but expect their children to be helpful. (Kolbert introduces us to Yanira, a six-year-old child from the Matsigenka tribe who not only fishes in the evening for crustaceans but also cleans, cooks, and serves them to the others in the tribe. Nice.) Even the French have one up on us believing that ignoring their kids (as opposed to indulging them) is not only good for them but also a crucial component to helping them evolve into altruistic adults, ones that can better cope with the frustrations of life.

Yet Kolbert herself admits to doing too much for her own kids. In a bold move she decided to give her sons a “new” chore—taking in the groceries from the car. When one son dropped a bag and the contents splattered across her driveway, she gave him another “new” task—taking out the garbage. But when he didn’t do well with that assignment either failing to properly close the trash can lid attracting a hungry bear, Kolbert gave up deciding that it’s better to do it all herself. Talk about ironic.

hands wrapped around two shopping bagsBut that’s where she lost me as I honestly couldn’t relate.

Although my husband and I know our kids have it good, I mean really good (i.e. they are not lacking for free time or the latest electronics by any means although they would argue otherwise), they also pull their weight around here. Big time. They have to because I won’t do it all. Call me spoiled! Carrying the groceries into the house and taking out the garbage are a given—they’re just one of many chores that my twins and their younger, singleton brother perform each week. Don’t get me wrong—I can hover with the best of them but I consciously fight the urge to do it all for my kids and instead prefer to teach them to do for themselves.

When twins are your first-born, you quickly realize that if you don’t get help, you’ll sink. It’s a matter of survival. But once family and friends stop coming around regularly, usually after that first month, you have to come up with another way of coping. That’s when I personally turned to my own kids. They needed to buck up—and quick! Like most parents of twins, I never felt the need to constantly entertain my toddlers, the bane of modern-day parenting. They were happy to play with each other for hours.

But it was around the time that my boys reached first grade that it hit me—if I had to make just one more peanut butter and jelly sandwich, I would lose it. So one day when one son asked for another, I looked at him and said, “Why don’t you make it?” He smiled and pulled a chair over to our kitchen island and popped a piece of bread into the toaster. It wasn’t a perfect sandwich and my kitchen took a bit longer to clean that afternoon but we were off and running. I was free! Yes, they still make their own lunches as well as their own breakfast (except on Sunday when my husband makes pancakes for everyone). My boys cook dinner for us, sort laundry, vacuum, and even clean bathrooms.

Yes, we’re trying to teach our boys to be independent, self-sufficient adults but when my kids help out around the house, I like them better. Without playing the martyr and doing it all myself, I’m not resentful and I can actually enjoy being a parent to my kids. I like showing them how to make homemade tomato sauce or the best way to iron a dress shirt. It’s how we bond and connect.

So if you’re expecting twins, do yourself (and your kids) a huge favor and give your dynamic duo chores early and often.


6 thoughts on “My Twins Spoiled? Who Has the Time

  1. Bergetta

    I find that article interesting only because I am told that I make my 5 year old twins do too much by many with only 1 child their age. They have chores each day that they are not paid for just as we, the parents, have household chores we are not paid for. They make their beds, get their own breakfast…yes pouring their own milk out of the carton or making toast in the toaster, put their dishes in the dishwasher, get dressed wearing the clothing “they” picked out the night before (at no point are they allowed to switch outfits in the morning. And it never bothered me if their outfits were mismatched. It has always been their choice.), they pack their backpacks the night before for whever they are going the next day. If it is not ready the night before it does not go. And because they clean up their toys before bed they always know where their things are and we do not waste time searching. They both have to help carry groceries in and put them away. We started all this when they were 2 and it has become part of their routine. The funny thing is I never hear a complaint from them and they are constantly asking what job they can do next. They love to help me any chance they get. I do not say phrases about how horrible housework is, we turn the radio up loud and make it as fun as possible. I am hoping that this all pays off when they start school every day but for now my mornings are nowhere near stressed as I have heard from many other mothers.

  2. James

    We have five kids. Our oldest is six and our youngest is 9 months old. Our twins are four. I can’t imagine doing everything for them — it would simply be impossible.

    I still consider them “spoiled,” but nothing can change that! (When I was your age our phones were attached to cords and didn’t play games, we had to rewind our movies before we could watch them and cartoons were only on Saturday mornings.)

    I think kids crave responsibility so not giving them the opportunity to do things for themselves would be unfair. Sometimes it’s hard to fight the urge to do things myself (because I can do it faster/better/neater), but it’s worth the extra effort in the beginning to have them be self sufficient.

    Even our two year old has “chores.” For example, he puts new bags in the trash cans when the trash goes out. He even empties the dishwasher by setting the clean dishes on the counter for me to put away. It’s less efficient, sure, but he likes to feel like he’s contributing and it’s a good habit to start. Even just giving him a wet paper towel to go around and wipe down cabinet doors or baseboards lets him be a part of the working mechanism of a big family.

    1. Christina Baglivi Tinglof

      Yup, I agree. My husband and I tease our kids and say the only reason we ever had them was so that they could do our dishes! We also explain that when we were their ages we had to do our parents’ dishes and when they grow up and have a family of their own, they can make their own kids do dishes! Ah, the circle of life!

    2. Bergetta

      I am so glad to hear your story. Would love to copy and paste and send to all those who keep telling me that I should let my kids be kids and play instead of helping around the house. They get plenty of play time. Never mind the fact they love to help and the fact they are very well adjusted happy children.

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