09 June 2007

Summer's here: What valuable skills will you teach your children?

Just now, I walked downstairs to the kitchen to get a refill on my coffee and overheard my husband asking our 14-year old daughter to stay off of the computer today.

"It's much too nice a day to be indoors. In fact, I think it's high time you learned to mow the lawn!" he announced with fervor.

Insert 14-year old groans here.

"Or, would you rather learn to bone a chicken?" he asked, throwing a glance my way.

At our house, we all know this story. In fact, I have a coffee mug depicting the "Boneless Chicken Ranch", a place where spineless chickens, unable to stand, flop limply on the ground. I promptly pulled the mug out of the cupboard.

This exchange between my spouse and daughter reminded me that indeed, summer is here, and now is the time when my own mother, many years ago, began the annual ritual of trying to teach me important domestic skills that she knew I would need in the future. Suffice it to say that it never went well, and by Day 2 of summer vacation, she generally gave up.

The Dreaded Summer Ritual always started the same way: On the last day of school, she would greet me at the kitchen door, knife in hand, and announce that this was the day I was going to learn to bone a chicken. It was indeed a skill that all girls needed: Without it, nary a meal could be prepared. She staunchly believed that I needed to acquire many additional domestic skills, too, such as cleaning, ironing, and sewing, but for today, we would start by learning to bone a chicken.

Now, I grew up in the 60's and 70's and was highly influenced by the "women's liberation" movement of the time. My aspiration was to become a high-powered career woman. I had no interest in becoming a wife or mother, or even as a single person performing any domestic tasks whatsoever. Actually, "had no interest" is probably too mild a phrase: I absolutely resisted and refused to learn any of it. Nevertheless, my mother tried every year to teach me to cut apart a chicken and carefully remove the bones. If you've ever done this, you'll understand that it is the most tedious of tasks and one that I perceived as having absolutely no value.

After many summers of enduring the "How to Bone a Chicken" lesson, I finally went off to college, still quite happy that I had acquired no domestic skills. I couldn't cook or clean, and I definitely couldn't sew, but I could speak French and analyze American literature and play concertos on the piano. And sure enough, it wasn't long after I left home that boneless chicken began to appear in grocery stores. At that moment, I felt vindicated.

So now we sit at the beginning of this long, unstructured period of time called Summer Vacation. I have to give my mom some credit for her boundless optimism and desire to equip me for adulthood. Between cups of coffee, it makes me wonder how well I am serving my own daughter in this regard. What valuable domestic skills will I teach her this summer?

Hmmm...Lawn mowing sounds like a pretty good place for my husband to start.


Janelle said...

Oh my gosh, that made me LAUGH! Love the mug, too!

I can remember my folks butchering chickens--now that's a task I definitely am glad I never had to master. Can't bone a chicken, either., and I feel all the better for it! ;-)

Sharon said...

Love the mug, Janet. I grew up in the 50's and 60's on a farm so there were chickens that were butcherd and my mom had me helping. Not a task that I ever taught my daughter. I'm happy to say that we buy boneless chicken. I'm perfectly happy to have the butcher at the store de-bone the chicken for me. I never learned how to can pickles either.

Jill said...

Wow - I had totally forgotten my goal of teaching the kids 3 new chores each summer. Last summer they learned to vacuum & I can't remember what else...thanks for the reminder & GREAT story!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Heather said...

How funny! I hear ya sister...I'd much rather pay a couple extra bucks and save the work and nastiness of removing the bone myself! LOL