There is no more hopeful person than a mother who has just created a chore chart.
Our first chore chart was a BIG deal. About a week before making one we started talking about chores with the kids, "What do you think you would like your chores to be?" "Would you like to track your progress with stickers or stamps?"
The day of the chore chart was exciting for everyone. We went to the craft store and picked out poster board and stamps. I let the children make all the decisions for what the chart should look like in hopes they would be more inspired to complete the tasks.
And then it came time to write the chores down.
These kids, a 5-year-old and a 2.5-year-old, were born on a farm. They have never not known what it's like to live among animals. They learned how to crawl in the kitchen next to an orphan piglet and they cuddle with newborn baby goats in their bed instead of stuffed animals. They've witnessed birth and they've witnessed death; they are equally intrigued by both.
"Feed the baby goats their bottles!" Isadora shouted.
"Drive tractor!" Banzai chimed in.
Farming, for them, wasn't a newfound passion like it was for their dad and me. Farming is their life.
As farmers, and specifically owners of a goat dairy farm that makes artisan cheeses,Matthew and I spend a large portion of our day working, and most of this work (with the exception of what occurs in the cheese making room) happens with our children right alongside us.
At 5 years old Isadora is capable enough to do work that is not only helpful, but also necessary.
She can bottle feed baby goats, corral goats for milking, prep udders for milking, actually milk goats, haul hay to feed her horse and the llama, cart food to the pigs in her little wheelbarrow, muck barns, steer the tractor and clean up our event space.
Her brother, Banzai, is right beside her, learning and growing, every step of the way. He picks up the strings left over from the bales of hay, carries his own Banzai-sized flake of hay for the horses, pushes the wheelbarrow his sister has filled with dirty bedding into the field, preps udders, and pulls weeds (we're still working on identifying what's a weed and what's not).
(Now I know why farmers used to have so many children!)
At one point in their short little lives, Matthew and I took a step back and asked ourselves, "Are we robbing our children of the magic of childhood by asking them to step up and do real work?"
We watched our children closely for a week looking for clues to see if we were slowly killing their beautiful little spirits with the asks involved in manual labor.
On the contrary, we saw two children flourishing under the work of a farm.
This farm is shaping these children into incredibly strong, driven individuals. They care about this farm not because it's where they live, or because it's where their food comes from, but because they see it as their farm.
These tiny humans walk around the farm and see it not only as a playground (don't worry they still play) but as something they are responsible for. They will often come running to us with frantic observations.
"The baby goats are out of the pasture and they're eating the garden!"
"A peacock just had babies!"
"The pigs peed in their water!"
Immediately, they will start offering solutions.
This farm has taught them that their opinion matters, and, on an ever-larger scale, that they matter.
But what happened to the chore chart?
Hilariously enough, it fell behind the refrigerator never to be seen again.
I had put so much energy into inspiring them with a chore chart I lost sight of the fact that the farm, in and of itself, empowered them.
Introducing a formalized system was about trying to nurture children who saw just how important their actions were to the success of their village. It was about them working right alongside their parents, modeling hard work and determination, and in the process, learning the strength of their own bodies and their own mental fortitude.
Turns out they already knew all those things.
Watching these children blossom, from infants being toted around the farm while we do chores, to tiny little humans who can outwork most adults, has been an incredible journey. Everyday chores with children gets a little easier. We repeat ourselves less. We don't have to remind them of the steps to complete a task. They start to learn their roles in a specific job and become experts in it.
In my opinion, chores haven't made their childhood less magical, they've made it more magical. Chores have given these children a purpose and sense of belonging that will root them for years to come.
The other day as we were delivering cheese to one of our customers the vendor asked Isadora, "Are you helping your Mommy deliver her cheese today?"
"No," she replied, "I'm helping my Mommy deliver OUR cheese."
And you know what? She was right.