Two Words: Free Labor
Housework can also become a form of play, and depending on how well or poorly your children do it, may be some help. In the 19th century, Hodgkinson said, “children were seen as not necessarily a burden on the household, but a welcome labor force.” Employ them.
“The thing to remember is that kids want to help, so try to get them in the habit of doing some of those things,” Lenore Skenazy, president of Let Grow, a nonprofit promoting childhood independence, said. “A 3-year-old separating laundry is quite possible and also quite fun. Six-year-olds can be making breakfast.” So, yes, children can cook, they can clean. If you can take a few extra minutes to gamify the chore — Mary Poppins’s “Spoonful of Sugar” approach — they may even enjoy it.
A pandemic isn’t forever. Probably. So if it’s easier, leave historical practice aside, give guilt the vacation that you can’t take and get through it. “Don’t think that there’s something wrong with you or that you haven’t been the perfect camp counselor and made it a fun and exciting and rewarding summer for everyone,” Skenazy said. “I mean, just give yourself a break.”
If that break involves a lot of screens, remember that new entertainment forms and technologies — from the written word on — have always attracted suspicion that they will pulp or corrupt young minds. And most of us have turned out OK, no matter how many “Smurfs” episodes we may have once absorbed. Video games provide an opportunity to socialize, a streamed musical is still a musical, a virtual tour of a gallery or museum isn’t the same as wandering the halls yourself, but take what you can get.
In general, find out what your children like to do and encourage them to do it. Or go with the obverse: When you have time available, make them do stuff that you like. In my case, that means playing board games and watching toy theater videos on YouTube, plus the occasional Hayao Miyazaki movie. Or the more than occasional one.
“Just let them watch a lot of films,” Hodgkinson said. “It’s temporary, it’s not forever. We really shouldn’t be too hard on ourselves.”