For years as a parent, I was guilty of making my children miserable. And not by the usual, awful clichéd ways, but by the opposite — spending all my time trying to enrich their lives. We would go from art classes to museums to “outdoor play” to mommy and me groups and then back home for age appropriate reading and healthy snacks served in bpa free bowls.
At night I would pour over the latest parenting books searching for new techniques to help my children sleep better, ways to get them in the bath happily and how to avoid all conflict and pain in their lives forever!
As my kids got older I noticed them complaining and fighting and irritable a lot of the time. I was even bribing them to do things like go to San Francisco for the day to see the Chinese New Year parade. What child on Earth would pass up the chance to eat a ridiculous amount of candy and have strangers in dragon costumes blow fire inappropriately close to their face? Something was wrong…
I started reading articles about the generation of kids in their twenties now who had great parents and wonderful enriching childhoods and are all depressed and in therapy. This brought the researchers to conclude that human beings don’t do well with getting everything for nothing – most lottery winners say they became unhappy after winning the lottery.
Human beings need balance – especially ones under four feet tall – and to really appreciate something you need to work for it.
And that’s why child labor saved my kids childhoods. If you want a great “how to” guide, I highly recommend the “Little House on the Prairie” series of books. Those kids worked their butts off, were terrorized by Indians and only got a penny and a sweet potato for Christmas – and they were happy! I also recommend starting chores when your kids are very young and can’t yet read about America’s strict child labor laws.
For me, bath time is not longer a problem because my kids are dirty and want to take a bath. Bedtime is no longer a problem because my kids are tired. And they fight sooooo much less. My kids are never happier with each other than after they’ve finished a big chore together. They play, they wrestle, they actually enjoy each other’s company — which brings me to the greatest benefit of child labor –
Besides, rock and roll chicks don’t stack wood.