Sometimes its hard to remember my kids aren't grown ups. Weird. I know. You look back at when they were born and you struggled to figure out why they were crying- diaper is clean, they were fed, burped, they even slept, you'd hold them, and they still just weren't happy.
Then they would talk... and boy did they. What language was that? I, for one, never believed in "baby talk". It was hard enough to learn "proper" English, let alone a created language that a child would outgrow in time. Besides, nothing like calling out to a 16-17 year old to pick up a "wooby" (blanket) in front of his now girlfriend. AWESOME! Just wasn't going to happen. Not to mention, I didn't have time to teach a made-up language to any hopeful babysitter I might attract when the kids were little.
Seriously, I can't tell you how many babysitting jobs I had as a teen that started off with well intended parents giving me their child's dictionary for communication. I think the parents may have been a little surprised to come home and learn their child knew how to speak real words (and wasn't crying- but laughing).
Now my youngest is 12, my son is 17 (almost 18), and our oldest is 19 (almost 20). While our oldest just recently spread her wings reaching that "grown-up" stage, the phone calls to Dad any time something comes up is that sure sign that while things are moving along... there's still that little wiggle room for need (which is a good thing). Then there are the other two, which brings me to my actual topic!
I am totally one for teaching independence. As soon as each of my kids could reach the buttons on the washing machine they now could be responsible for completely doing their own laundry (they have days of the week for that so no one is on top of each other). Folding and putting away has been their job since they could open and close their drawers. Why? I don't wear their clothes! If it is important to them, they will take care of it, and for the most part they do.
Dishes are pretty much the same story. I am crazy when it comes to having a clean kitchen. If they can reach the sink, they can help with dishes. Loading/unloading the dishwasher or hand-washing dishes has always been one of the biggest "tasks" that seems to be a labor of love.
Their rooms are no different (cleaning, vacuuming, etc).
Then came cooking... I was raised in a house as the oldest of four girls and on my Mom's side of the family the oldest of six granddaughters. It was never said that "females shall learn to cook", but it was certainly taught. Both my Mom and Grandma included me and my sisters as soon as we were tall enough to help (with anything). So when it came to my kids I took the same approach, if they came into the kitchen during prep time- it was because they wanted to help!
The great part of cooking is it involves reading. It involves measurements, calculations (math), and it involves critical thinking. If the meat dish takes 40 minutes, the veggies only take 10 minutes, what time should I start them so they'll be hot and not over cooked? But cooking also involves patients, and most importantly, it involves attention without distractions.
It's that last part that adults sometimes forget doesn't always mix well with kids (and some adults). With today's distractions I find myself thinking of the movie "UP" and hearing the dog talking interrupting himself frequently with the distracted "SQUIRREL!". Is it any wonder there aren't more house fires as kids start their favorite snack only to hear the theme song to their favorite tv show and 20 minutes later remember "oh yeah, I'm cooking!". Luckily, most kids think cooking is microwave only, and most kids only know how to cook using the number system rather than some of the fancy pre-set systems. But I am sure many kids have lost bags of popcorn, or over cooked that "Easy Mac" and just sucked it up.
But the stove! Oh the Stove! Some parents would say- YOU SERIOUSLY LET THEM GO NEAR IT WHEN YOU AREN'T AROUND? Ah yeah! And I let them cross the street too! I do NOT plan on moving WITH them or going to college WITH them. They have to learn. Do I want a house fire? Oh, HELL NO! But I also want them to grow up. Which means making some mistakes along the way.
While I won't throw any one person under the bus... I know some adults that have had the fire alarm go off a few times letting their kids know "dinner is ready". So to say distractions only happen to teenagers, well, that's silly... BUT one would hope that this learning moment helps in that growing up process.
Because after all... they're almost grown up, but not yet!