Scallywag

The best mirror is an old friend.

~ George Herbert (1593 - 1633) ~

Kids And Domesticity

July 3rd, 2013 ~ Est. reading time: 2 mins, 26 secs

Funny how kids avoid doing the dirty work.

Funny how kids avoid doing the dirty work.

One of my favorite cleaning guru tips is to “soak it”. Ever since we were kids we learnt that, if you let anything soak, chances are it’ll turn out right.

Well that’s the theory. Fact is, you can’t bathe kids for too long before their skin gets wrinkly. And grandparents have a tendency to be selective about drenching. Which is to admit, some things don’t soak.

You could soak that pile of bills you’ve got stacked in the kitchen corner on the bench. But even kids know that’s not going to make anything turn out well. Besides which, the eager parties who send you these things will only turn around and send you more.

No, leaving whatever to steep overnight is only good for pots ‘n’ pans and cleaning clothes, and even then it only works sometimes. For the most part you still have to apply elbow grease and physically touch the stuff (which parents do diligently and kids observe with disinterest).

Pop that shirt into the sink and let the Acme Soakamix magically do it all for you. Then wowee! Va-va-va-voom! Stains are gone and your shirt will be wonderfully fresh and ready to wear. Well, sort of. Kids might believe it in theory but you and I know it’s a confidence trick pitched at our wishes. Truth be known, you’ve got to scrub, slosh, and rub because cleaning is a messy business.

Kids of course learn by watching and then through doing. So if we roll up our sleeves on the domestic front, they learn how it’s done from us. Though, even then, certain activities remain evasive. Take marinades. Children of all ages know nothing about marinating, except that it’s icky and only a mother or mad father would ever touch that gross-looking stuff.

It never occurs to kids that such domesticity conceals a truth. We get soaked scrubbing and sloshing stuff in water, and coated up to our elbows in gooey ingredients because that’s what real life is like: messy. You can’t keep perfectly neat, dry all the time and manage what needs doing. That’s why we soak, slosh, and drench: because it’s necessary.

So if kids are raised without direct experience of this hands on mucky factor, they are missing something. Advertisers, meanwhile, know we’d rather not touch grimy stuff, and capitalize on our evasion.

Which makes me wonder, how easy would it be for a fresh generation to think they don’t need to get their hands dirty dealing with life? Washing, they might naively believe, could be done virtually. Housework would only be for cleaners and, in the meantime, parents (as it is their job after all…).

Could that ever really happen? Surely not. But then again, how many urban young people have little domestic skill? How many are no longer sure about keeping a home, washing a shirt, cooking a meal, or cleaning a drain? Instead, they expect these to be yet another area for “professionals”.

Meanwhile, I wonder if future kids risk losing not only the basics, but also a powerful domestic metaphor. Messy as life gets, if we have the skills and understanding to handle its tangle, we are the hardier. Just as a tidy home is a constant “get your hands dirty” work in progress, so too are the requirements of a tidy life (while a hands-free remote soak with virtual working action is never going to make it happen).

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