Last week, our nanny hurt her arm and stayed home. As much as I’m grateful for her Mary Poppins-like skills and her ability to sweep into the house whenever I have some translation or proofreading work to do, I was equally happy to dedicate the week to the little ones. I had grand plans to start teaching Mia how to read (for real, this time), to go for long walks by the shore, and to clean out the laundry room, one blue tote at a time.
Ah, best-laid plans.
Although each day was hectic and full in its own way, we didn’t seem to accomplish very much. One of the hardest things about taking care of small children, I think, is letting go of a certain measure of productivity. Or rather, letting go of the ways you want to be productive. Despite many interruptions and some squabbles and tantrums, we did end up doing productive things – just not the ones I’d planned.
Since reflecting on what values I want my children to carry with them throughout their lives, I’ve been thinking more and more about hard work. I believe in work. I believe in having a good attitude towards work even when I don’t feel like it. This is something I really want my kids to learn, something that is particularly difficult to teach them here in Guatemala.
The majority of children here do an intense amount of physical work from a very young age. Too much, really, but that’s another story altogether. Many adults who have close interactions with my own children – neighbours, babysitters, family members, the nanny – tend to see Mia and Anina in a slightly different light, and some of them walk on eggshells to avoid getting them upset. I don’t want to get into the details for this here, but I do feel that if I want my children to learn how to be helpful around the house, how to do basic chores, I need to be the one to teach them.
So last week, I didn’t clean out my laundry room. I didn’t take the kids for long walks by the edge of the lake.
We did, however, sit at the table with a pile of fava beans, and we peeled them one by one. We made seedling starter pots out of old newspapers. I started teaching Mia how to read in English using Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons.
Is it easy to stop the kids from playing and get them to pick up their clothes? No. Is it easy for a 4 ½ year old to learn how to read a second language? No. Did I feel good at the end of each day? Yes.
Of course we want everything in life to be easy, but the reality is that raising kids – like so many other things in life – is hard work. But, I tell you, when Mia ate every single fava bean I served her, and then brought her plate to the sink without a peep from her parents, I thought, This. This is why it’s worth it.