Every day around 3 p.m., I sit at my kitchen table and write out a list of chores for my kids to complete after they get home from school. Back in the days when I tried harder as a mom, I employed various adorable systems for getting my kids excited about chores: sticker charts and jars filled with fuzzy balls – things like that.
Now, I find a piece of scrap paper, fold it in half and scrawl everyone’s daily chores in plain black ink: Feed the cows. Unload the dishwasher. Tidy your room. Practice the piano. Clean the dreaded kitty litter. Nothing too egregious, in my opinion.
But sometimes, when the hours between 3:30 and bedtime seem to stretch into an infinite abyss before me, I’ll add one more special chore for all the older kids to complete before they’re allowed to relax for the day: Entertain Hyrum for 30 minutes.
Hyrum is my youngest child, a 6-year-old showstopper who says hilarious things, is truly adorable and likes to be doing something messy, fun or slightly naughty all the time (and often all at the same time).
He’s a fun kid to have around, and entertaining him is really not a bad gig unless you’re a mom in the middle of making dinner, and he keeps begging you to pull out the Popsicle sticks from the craft supplies so he can use them to make a boat.
And then help him glue the Popsicle sticks together, and then hold them together while the glue dries, and then paint the whole mess and float it in the bathtub and pile all his Lego guys on top of it to see if it looks like a pirate ship. And then console him while he cries because the glue dissolved and the whole thing broke apart 10 seconds after putting it in the water.
So, you can see why the outsourcing of my parenting responsibilities is sometimes necessary for my mental health and also a timely dinner experience. Now listen: When I ask my kids to “entertain” Hyrum, it is a term very loosely interpreted.
Sometimes, entertaining Hyrum means he is allowed to sit next to his sister while she scrolls through Pinterest looking for her next embroidery project. Sometimes, it means he gets to skateboard outside with his older brother.
Sometimes, it’s someone reading to him, or taking funny selfies with him, or playing his favorite card game and letting him win every round. Sometimes, I feel like all this entertainment has created a monster.
“Why isn’t anyone entertaining me?!” he yelled into the void of our empty living room one afternoon when everyone else in the house had the audacity to do something alone. “Find something to do by yourself,” I called from the kitchen, elbows deep in raw chicken that I was getting ready for dinner.
“I don’t know how to do anything by myself,” he yelled back, and I was assured once again that I am doing an excellent job as a mother. Needless to say, I was surprised one day last week when he unexpectedly flipped the script.
“Tomorrow, it’s your turn for me to entertain you,” he informed me as I was putting him to bed. “Oh, really?” I said a little nervously. “What are you going to do to entertain me?” I had visions of him “letting me” buy him something at the dollar store or watch him play a video game.
He held up one hand and started counting off on his fingers each of his planned activities for the afternoon. “Play Frisbee. Swing on the swings. Jump on the trampoline. Look at cloud shapes,” he said.
My heart melted. I mean … look at cloud shapes? Is this kid for real? “That sounds perfect,” I said, pulling him in for a hug. And I meant it. I couldn’t imagine anything I’d rather do more.
Julia Ditto shares her life with her husband, six children and a random menagerie of farm animals in Spokane Valley. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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