Today’s guest post comes to us from Patricia Frazer, a mom in Ireland who decided to see how the other half lives — the other half being her kids. Her kids, of course, had to agree to the Freaky Friday switch. Here’s what happened.
Freaky Friday, The Proposal:
I call the troops (Mary, 12, Michael, 9 and Séamus, 4) around the table for a family conference and pop the question. “What do you think about swapping lives for a while?” They look at me quizzically. “How would you guys like to be in charge for a week?”
Now they look hunted.
I’ve piqued their interest but they are almost sure it is a trap. “You three will be in charge of running the house: cooking, cleaning and laundry. Myself and Dad will do your jobs: running to the shop for milk and bread, walking the dog, clearing and setting the table.”
Their first reaction was to ask if they can impose screen time limits on us. It immediately seems like a deal breaker. They don’t seem at all intimidated by the idea of running the house, but unless they get to throw their weight around dishing out orders, they are not sure what is in it for them.
I hate being chained to the computer and happily agree.
The ground rules:
We agree some basic ground rules, and dangle a monetary incentive. The princely sum of 50 Euros (about $50) is up for grabs for a job well done. They accept my challenge and agree to a five day period when they will take charge in summer.
As we get closer to kick-off Mary starts to ask questions and make lists. This is a dead giveaway that she has started to take things seriously. Recipes are consulted and shopping lists drawn up. She’s a good cook, but ambitious. I wonder how far into the week the salmon-en-croute-with-garlic-and-herb-butter mentality is going to go.
As we head off to the local supermarket Michael shouts out “This is fun!”, without a trace of irony.
It’s not a sentiment he has ever expressed about food shopping before.
Day one: the sink-dining solution.
I wonder aloud where the usual pile of breakfast dishes is and Mary responds that they had
toast and tea in the kitchen while leaning over the sink to cut down on dishes.
Genius! They even rinsed out their cups instead of piling them in the dishwasher. It’s sterling work, but why didn’t the little darlings ever think of this when I was washing up?
Day two: exceeds efficiency standards.
Michael places a bag of pre-washed salad, a pack of pre-sliced cheese and a tub of marinated olives on the table, throws a bunch of forks at us and claims he has “made” lunch. You can keep your corporate efficiency gurus. If you are really interested in streamlining just hire a crew of nine year olds then watch and learn.
I’ve got so much time on my hands that I’m finishing all the dangling DIY projects that have been torturing me for years. Because there is no limit on cartoon watching, they have binged so extensively all day that they are bored by evening and…sit down and talk to us. Voluntarily. It’s unsettling but highly enjoyable.
Day three: the tissue issue.
A toilet roll the dog ripped up on Monday is still on the carpet today. I can’t stand it any longer but don’t want to break the rules so am left begging someone, anyone, to clean it up. I guess the cooking and laundry are running well because everyone likes to eat and have clean clothes, but it turns out no one else really cares that it looks like it has snowed toilet paper but me.
Day four: the missing sound.
The lack of goal-directed activity is driving me bananas. I can’t relax another second and
persuade everyone to take a trip into town to collect a book I have ordered. Just as our train home is pulling up I realize I have left my new book along with several others in the station
We check back and it is gone. I don’t know what to do. Mary takes charge of the search
effort and even enlists the station staff to help. Even little Séamus joins the hunt without
prompting. It dawns on me suddenly that the sound of bickering has been absent all week.
The final day.
We finish up our challenge with a Friday feast. We’ve invited a friend to dinner and though I tried hard to stick to the rules I crack and all five of us are frantically vacuuming, cleaning and yelling at each other when he arrives. The kids serve a delicious beef chili on the terrace and for one golden moment it’s perfect before it starts to rain.
And aftermath: the biggest surprise.
I can’t say that I was surprised by how well my children could cook and clean. I knew they were capable of that.
The biggest surprise was myself.
I hadn’t noticed until I stopped how relentlessly frustrating, stressful and exhausting it was to manage and plan everyone’s day. Giving your children a job is easy. Letting them do it their own way is harder.
But, hey, give us a chance, kids! We can learn!