Thursday, February 16, 2012
Notes From The Laundry On Consensual Living
I didn't do any laundry last week. Before you worry, laundry got done, but not by me. We don't have assigned chores in our home (we prefer to embrace certain principles) though there are household tasks that typically default to a particular person. For instance, I am very picky about the cleanliness of our tedious jetted tub, so I usually am the one who scrubs it. The kids prefer to do the deep cleaning (or any cleaning) of their rooms, so they dust and mop their rooms. Alex ends up with things like, oh, installing vapor barrier in our Salem's Lot basement. And laundry usually falls to me and Alex, (and I actually enjoy doing laundry, yes really.)
I spotted this note, taped to the wall above the laundry soap shelf a couple of days ago. It's not my note, but my daughter's. While this may seem insignificant, it's important in several ways. Olivia, 14, wasn't asked to do laundry, nor was it listed on a chart. There was no gold star, item or cash reward she could earn by doing laundry. More importantly, our love and support of her was not contingent upon her completion of this particular household task. In light of recent appalling parenting practices that made headlines last week (and one which I will not link to), I think this is a very important distinction to make.
So why would a fourteen year old take on the week's laundry, without being cajoled, coerced or bribed into doing so? The answer is simple: she wanted to, in her words, "better know the science of laundry". (Both the kids know the basics of doing laundry, but not as regular, artful practice.) In other words, she wanted to learn a new task, and she wanted to contribute to her home. Yes, her home. This home is not a space that Alex and I are letting our children occupy on borrowed time. This home belongs to all of us. Olivia wanted to learn something for the simple joy of acquiring skill and knowledge and competency. After many loads, making notes to herself and practicing meaningful work, she contributed to the care and keeping of our home. And it all happened without any negative behavior from parent or child.
This is consensual living, and unschooling in practice. Olivia, self-motivated and self-directed, took on a task that was both unassigned and non-compulsory. By doing so, she gained skill and competency and confidence in a necessary household task. As well, she benefited and contributed to the function, well-being and health of her home. How good it is to know that our children feel like equal members of our household, that they can contribute and benefit us all, without feeling forced to do it.