Last Saturday was one of the good ones.
It started early with a big family breakfast and a direct segue into the Saturday list.
The Saturday list is a weekend staple in our home. My kids have come to accept it. They know if they want to have any fun (ie, video games or movies) in the evening, they have to first tackle the list.
The list includes a big household chore, like vacuuming, scrubbing bathrooms or cleaning out the cars. It also includes laundry, bedrooms, music practice, homework and yard work.
It takes hours and hours. There is often weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth. I sometimes send my kids back to their jobs multiple times to get the task done right.
I have my own ambitious Saturday list. However, I spend so much time managing the kids and their jobs, my own agenda is usually neglected. On those days, I do my own grumbling.
"I need to hire a housekeeper," I think. "And a lawn service. And I would save time if I didn't do haircuts for all of my boys."
And maybe that time will come. There is no shame in hiring out help. I don't believe there is any moral superiority to scrubbing one's own toilets and powering up the lawn mower. Different circumstances dictate different family choices.
For certain, my house would be cleaner if the tasks were done by professionals. I wouldn't have dusty light fixtures and baseboards. Then again, I love that my kids are learning how to clean out a vacuum filter and detail the minivan.
If we had a lawn service, the grass would be clipped to precision and weed free. However, we would miss those moments when we're all wedged behind a fence pulling dandelions and blackberry brambles. And we discover earthworms, and my 9-year-old finishes his job and runs inside to create an earthworm habitat. And my 15-year-old, after heaving the last of the weeds into the yard-debris can, says, "That was actually kind of fun."
Speaking of fun, I don't love cutting hair. Fifteen years in, I'm getting worse and my teens are getting pickier ("Don't touch the bangs, Mom!") But I wouldn't trade the talks we have, the ideas and concerns that seem to pour out while I'm scissoring the double cowlick.
Something about that relaxed atmosphere has made for some of our best parent-to-child discussions, even if the haircut itself is a hack job.
They say that in order to be a successful writer, you have to learn to write in the cracks, which is to say you squeeze it in whenever you can, like cement between stones. But I'm finding that some of the most meaningful parenting also happens in the cracks, when I take time to follow my son out of the car for the fourth time and show him exactly how to vacuum under the car mats and dust the dashboard.
These things take time. So much time. Not a single step of this process comes easy. It's a long-term investment with a two-way payout. I'm teaching my kids how to work and hopefully strengthening our relationship at the same time.
A wise mother once told me, "The experts got it wrong. It's not 'a family that plays together, stays together.' It's 'a family that works together, stays together.'"
Perhaps it's a bit of both. With the radio cranked up and the Oregon sunshine on our backs, all of us mud-slicked and bramble-cut, who's to say we're not working hard and having fun?
That's the kind of moment I'll never hire out.