April 3, 2020

C is for Childhood Chores

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Nearly everyone had chores to do as a child and nearly everyone has definite opinions and feelings about those chores. I thought it would be fun today to talk about the chores we had and what we thought about them...or rather our parents' handling of them. 

For myself, I can't say that I look back with any particular fondness when it comes to the chores I had growing up. My adopted father was a stern task master and rather controlling, so when he expected a job done right it meant he expected it done exactly the way he would have done it. I rarely lived up to that standard. I can't say if that was out of stubbornness or not. I suspect some of it was.

The first half of my childhood, up until I finished elementary school, passed without much in the way of chores. I was expected to make my bed daily, clean up my room when it got so bad my mom told me to, and pick up after the dogs out in the yard. 

It was the summer I turned 12, just before starting jr. high, that brought big changes. All of a sudden I had dishes to wash, grass that needed to be trimmed after my dad mowed, my own bathroom to clean, and garden chores...as well as the chores I'd had before.

When I was in 7th or 8th grade I got a "brilliant" idea (probably from Teen magazine or something similar) to create a contract with my parents in order to earn an allowance. I made a ridiculously long list of chores I would do and listed the price I would do them for (very, very low) and I signed that I would do them every week and my parents signed that they would pay me every two weeks.

What was listed in that contract, you ask? Well, I can't remember the specifics, but it amounted to washing the dishes daily, doing all the ironing (and people still ironed EVERYTHING back then), and cleaning the entire house on Saturdays. Though not in our contract, I still had to clean up after the dogs, trim the grass, and work in the garden.

It didn't take long for me to resent my chores as Dad quickly established a routine of inspecting my work and finding fault with it. Groundings were the punishment for a less than perfect job and he found something wrong nearly every week. I was once grounded for two weeks because while I cleaned the entire house, I didn't dust the tops of the baseboards. 

Garden chores were in a class of their own. Dad loved gardening and planted a large vegetable garden every year of my life. I knew that every evening during the gardening season I was expected to work with him and Mom after supper. If and when the gardening chores got done I could join my friends for kickball, tag, or whatever the evening's game was. 

My jobs in the garden were watering and weeding. Dad wouldn't run a hose to the garden to water. I had to fill watering can after watering can and lug them the 100 feet or so to the garden. Weeding wasn't an easy job, either. No hoes for us! We pulled those suckers by hand...the entire 1/4 acre garden...and there couldn't be a single weed in sight when I was done. Other garden chores came as the vegetables were ready for harvest. Picking things like beans and peas was always my job...as was snapping the beans and shelling the peas. Sometimes I could get my friends to help me snap a bushel of beans if I could work out a deal with my mom to take us to the lake to swim when we were done.

Those chores remained mine all through high school. The only things that changed were the ironing (that load lightened) and washing dishes. I hated washing dishes and once asked Dad why I had to do them. His response was that Mom cooked so I had to do the dishes. Oh, really? Did that mean if I cooked Mom had to wash dishes? Dad said it did. Mom probably wanted to strangle him, because from that day until I left for college I cooked nearly every meal. That turned out to be a chore I enjoyed and I got to be very good at cooking. Even my dad called me a good cook, which was really something.

Lots of people look back fondly at the chores they had. I can't say that's the case for me. The two exceptions are cooking and working in the garden. I did develop a like for both of those and while I still think Dad was too strict and overbearing, I've since learned how tough his dad was on him. I can at least understand why he was the way he was. 

So what was your chore experience?


  1. Oh my...that was a lot. We always cleaned the kitchen after supper, but there were always at least 3 of us doing it and it included washing, drying, sweeping the floor. We also had to make our beds and we always helped with the housecleaning on Saturdays and then whatever else we were asked to do such as running the sweeper, polishing furniture, or just whatever needed to be done. We helped in the garden and breaking beans too.

  2. It was expected to dry the dishes, take out the dishes, laundry etc. My parents both worked and us kids had to pick up the slack, so to speak. It made me a stronger person, btw. smiles

    Have a great day friend.

    1. take out the dishes? LOLOLOL--NO TRASH! LOLOL --I need m ore coffee this morning, grin.

  3. Oh wow … I'd have been grounded for LIFE! In retrospect, my parents were far too lenient. Besides making my bed and tidying my room, drying the dishes was about it. Unfortunately, upon moving out into the Real World, mine was a rude awakening.

  4. I was the oldest of 4. We had to make our bed every morning since I was little. I remember mom teaching me to cook when I was 12. I had two sisters and we all had a chore to do. If I cooked they washed and dried the dishes. If mom cooked, I would do it. Saturday was big clean house day. I think I have a picture of us cleaning. My kids all got chores too. My grand kids are staying with us. My grand daughter told me that she has to dust and Eddie has to mop. I told her okay. I am busy sewing!

  5. As the oldest of four and with both parents working, I had a pretty big load on my shoulders. I was the baby-sitter after school. I had to get dinner started most nights. I had to help with laundry, did most of the cleaning, washed dishes, and most of the ironing. My baby sister, who is 9 years younger than me, says she always thought of me as her mom. I got $4.00 a week allowance. My brother and I used to laugh. When I graduated from high school and left for school and soon after that, marriage, Mom got a dishwasher. When my brother left for college, Dad got a riding mower! Truth. I used to hate having so much responsibility and did let it go to my head occasionally, but I learned many good lessons on keeping house. I don't hold any grudges even if I hated it back then! My folks were not task masters, though, like your dad was!


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